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City council pushes vote to help homeless students in Pinellas County

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – St. Petersburg City Council pushed back a vote to help homeless children on Tuesday. Council members announced at their meeting Thursday night that the vote is being pushed to March.

If the grant is approved in March, a quarter of a million dollars would help start a pilot project aimed at helping students across seven St. Petersburg schools. Right now, there are nearly 4,000 students in the county considered homeless.

8 On Your Side spoke with one woman who was homeless as a child and dedicated her life to helping children in need. She now works for Ready for Life.

Shadai Simmons is the Director of the Youth Program at Ready for Life. As a child, her mom was addicted to drugs and her dad died before she was born. Shadai dropped out of school in the 5th grade at 12 years old and ran away from home. Shadai says she met two men who let her live with them.

“I became a victim of human trafficking. After that, my drug addiction took me off a limb. From 12 to 17 I was incarcerated over 30 times,” she said.

Shadai said being a homeless child is a vicious cycle.

“They get you addicted to drugs and get you to prostitute for them. Here I was a 12-year-old being swallowed up by the world and facing an addiction that led me down a dark road”.

Shadai got put into the foster care system at 17 years old and was able to turn her life completely around. She is now is a happy mother of two children and, through her successful career, has dedicated her life to helping troubled children in Pinellas County.

Shadai said if the grant money is approved by city council in March, she believes it would be an investment in our homeless youth.

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