Homeless program teacher retires after 50 years

Posted at: 08/29/2014 10:00 PM
Updated at: 08/29/2014 10:35 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

She's championed better education opportunities for thousands of homeless children in Albuquerque.  Now, she's about to retire after a nearly 50-year career in education.

"It's a long time," Helen Fox said on Friday about her time in schools.

20 years ago, the one-time special education teacher became director of the Title I Homeless Project for Albuquerque Public Schools.  She found a passion caring for children who were homeless - living in tents, garages, under bridges, inside old strip malls and cars.

Initially, Fox said the program enrolled roughly 500 students.  Now, it serves roughly 6,000 students.

"Yeah, it's heart-wrenching, but the joy is that these children are the most resilient, unbelievable children you've come across," she said. "If any of us had lived the way these children live, and be expected to get up and go to school and function just like everybody else does, I'm not sure I could do it.  But these children do it on a daily basis."

Fox has held the job so long that the man taking over for her once listened to her speak as an intern.

"I mean, you just have a national model here that Helen has created that hopefully, through her legacy and her laying the foundation, we can build on and continue to grow," Patrick Scott said.

Although Fox says she intends to spend more time with her grandchildren in retirement, she intends to volunteer for causes she's supported for decades.

"And the only way to change homelessness is to educate these children, and that's how we're going to change that whole face for the world," she said.