CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Buses aren’t the only vehicles lining up at the end of the day at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. At some, there are also taxi cabs.

A cab takes a local woman named Sharika’s 7-year-old son back and forth to school each day. She and her family spent much of the last two years homeless.

Right now, they live in an apartment in Mount Holly.

But because Sharika’s son started the school year at Billingsville Elementary School in Charlotte, federal law says he can stay there for the rest of the year. CMS is required to provide transportation, even if it’s from 20 miles away in Mount Holly.

“It’s our responsibility to get them to school,” said Kay Carreira, who is the district’s liaison for the McKinney-Vento Program, which aims to protect the nation’s homeless children.

Carreira said the number of homeless students in CMS has jumped 30 percent since 2007, now close to 4,500 children

Most are able to take buses to school each day, but about 100 use taxi cabs.

CMS calls those “extreme cases.”

The services will likely cost the district $470,000 this year.

Child advocates say it’s money well spent.

“We can make sure they don’t miss school (and) we can make sure they’re not having to bounce around schools like they’re bouncing around homes,” Carreira said. “We want to give them one stable place they know they can come to.”

“Investing now means these children won’t be in incarceration (and that) these children, as adults, won’t be on public assistance,” said Annabelle Suddreth, the executive director of A Child’s Place in Charlotte. The group provides assistance to homeless children each day, working inside schools and with families.

Suddreth said moving from school to school leads to setbacks that are difficult to overcome.

“Our challenge is to make sure they’re in that same school every day,” Suddreth said. “It’s the most stable part of their day.”

Channel 9 asked CMS officials how they ensure the safety of children who ride in taxi cabs. They said the contract they sign with cab companies requires a background check for all drivers. And they said when possible, they try to provide consistency, so the same drivers are driving the same children.

Sharika said she’s grateful for the service. Her family has moved four times in two years, including a long stay at a motel. But, she said, having her son at the same school has helped him excel and given her one less worry.

“I don’t think they realize how much they help us to get our lives together, and get things together and do better,” she said.

If the family continues to live in Mount Holly, the student will have to go to a Gaston school next year.

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