Teen, once homeless, gets accepted to university with LSS staff help

Teachers would consider Devon Cockrum, 18, a model student. He earned good grades while attending Ed White High School, and when not studying, he enjoyed hanging out with friends and doing martial arts. To many, he seemed like a typical student.

But what is it like going to school when you sleep on someone else’s couch, living without a home, not knowing where you might lay your head? Devon and his grandmother, clients in the LSS Rep Payee Program, were without a home for much of Devon’s senior year of high school. And despite the stress of being homeless, he never lost his motivation to attend school.

Devon Cockrum, 18, graduated with honors from Ed White High School in May 2022, and was accepted to attend Edwards Waters University in the fall.

The lack of a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is the number one correlate for elevated risk of youth homelessness.


Despite the odds, Devon not only graduated high school, but did so with honors. And with the help of his LSS Rep Payee case manager, Wade Davis, Devon recently enrolled at Edward Waters University for the fall 2022 semester.

“Devon’s drive and perseverance should inspire us all,” Wade said. “He proves that with determination and a positive attitude, you can accomplish anything. It really is part of what makes my job amazing, the ability to help people in need. Lutheran opens the doors for so many people and I am so grateful to be part of the team.”

With Wade’s help, Devon and his grandmother were able to move into their own home in May.

When Devon attends Edward Waters University in the fall, he hopes to major in African-American studies. He says he’s thankful for his case manager, Wade, for helping him and his grandmother to find housing and connecting them with other LSS services.

In part, Devon’s story would not have happened without the help of the LSS Rep Payee program.

It’s the only program in Northeast Florida that manages Social Security income to ensure that recipients’ basic living needs are met and that vendors, family members or friends are not taking financial advantage of their vulnerability. Fiscal coordinators in the Rep Payee program help clients set budgets, pay their bills for basic living expenses and give them spending stipends.

The program serves about 500 people each month. Representatives work to place their clients in safe environments while giving ongoing support.

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Article written by Danae Leake; to contact the author, email her at danae.leake@lssjax.org.


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