There was an article published recently on Foxsports.com that left me in disbelief. It stated that a high school coach in the Orlando, Florida area was suspended for housing one of his homeless student football players. According to the Orlando Sentinel and wftv.com, the coach moved the player in with him. However, the school considered that a violation of a Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) rule that prohibits school employees and athletic staff from promising or offering potential athletes in their program free or reduced-cost rent for housing. The school self-reported the violation and suspended the coach for one game, while the player is being held from games until a ruling is made by the FHSAA. Both the coach and school run the risk of being fined and the potential forfeiture of previous victories.
It appears to me the coach was following his heart and doing the right thing for the youth. What would have been the alternative? Allow him to live on the streets? Ironically, last year’s movie, “The Blind Side,” depicted a similar true story of a homeless teen taken in by a family who helps him succeed in school and on the football field. This heartfelt movie was a huge hit at the box office.
But the Florida story isn’t shaping up to have a happy ending. To be fair to the Osceola County School District, its regulations state the district will work with any homeless or displaced students — and employees should not get involved. And yes, there are thousands of agencies across the country like mine — Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) — that provide shelter, clothing and food for those with no where to go. We don’t turn anyone away.
So, the question remains: Should the Florida high school coach have referred his homeless student athlete to the school district for help, rather than stepping in to provide him with a home? What do you think?