Indiana News

Indy Motel Becomes Home For Family of 6

12/19/2010

A room in a cheap motel may provide a roof and a place to sleep, but it isn't a home.

Indianapolis kindergartner Jessika Miller and her first-grade brother Jacob are among about 3,000 homeless school children in Marion County.

They, their parents and two pre-school sisters occupy a $150-a-week room at the Motor 8 Inn.

It's their fourth home in six months during which father Josh Miller traded a truck for a month in a rental house, and the family spent two months at a friend's home.

Paying the rent depends on Miller's handyman jobs or help from friends.

"Just the instability and stress that these children face are unlike what most of us imagine," Kate Hussey, vice president for programs for School on Wheels, told The Indianapolis Star for a story Sunday.

Homeless children are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school and also four times more likely to have a learning disability, according to the nonprofit group, which provides tutoring and other services to homeless children.

Jessika's teacher at Indianapolis Public School 61,Shirley Chappell, said Josh and Jennifer Miller deserve credit for keeping their children focused on school despite their difficult home situation.

Chappell said she wasn't expecting them to come up with the $3 for a fall field trip to an apple orchard, but Josh Miller brought in the money.

Jennifer Miller said school is a priority for her family. When the children walk through the door, she asks for their backpacks so she can check for homework.

As for Jessika's near-perfect attendance this fall, Josh Miller said: "Getting to school on time ain't nothing. It just takes getting up. But it's really important."

The family has tried to make the motel room more livable by bringing in a cooler to store extra food, baby beds for the two youngest children and an electric griddle and a toaster oven for warm meals.

Jennifer Miler put up family photos, a calendar and the children's papers from school on the wall.

For Christmas, the family has hung stockings on the wall, put a Nativity scene on the dresser and set up a small Christmas tree next to the TV.

Asked about what she thinks of the motel room, Jessika said: "Great."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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