Families living in shelters get support at back to school event

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HARLEM, Manhattan (PIX11) -- More than 100 parents and children spent Saturday away from their shelters, enjoying all kinds of activities and getting support at a special back to school event at the Police Athletic League in Harlem.

Dozens of children lined up for donated backpacks, school supplies, and Rangers tee shirts and caps.  Topping it off, the kids could get free haircuts.

“It’s a big help. I don’t have to take him someplace else now.  He’s good for the first day of school,” said Akita Hernandez about her 6-year-old son who took advantage of the free haircut.

There are 11,000 families in the city’s shelter system and most of them are headed by single mothers.

Antonio Rodriguez, special events director for the New York City Department of Homeless Services said the main goal of the event was to encourage fathers to be active participants in their families.

“There’s a lot of responsibilities that dads living with their families in shelters have.  So we just encourage them, give them support and help them enhance their skills so they can be the best father they can be,” said Rodriguez.

Sean Miles has been living with his wife and two children at a shelter in Queens since last Christmas.  He said he doesn’t want to be like some of the fathers he sees out on the streets.

“They’re still running around the street doing  what they want to do instead of what they’re supposed to be doing which is to take care of their kids,” said Miles.

Yohnee Miller, founder of the Confidence Initiative, deserves much of the credit for giving so much joy to the shelter families.  She spent six months planning the event.

“I used to live in a shelter, like everyone here.  I got out of the shelter.  I realized a lot of the things holding people back is confidence.  So once I got my barber’s license, I started going back to the shelter and giving haircuts, and people started feeling better about their situation,” Miller said.

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