HOUSTON—Parents who thought their home was safe are battling with the state over the custody of their kids, and they believe they’re being punished because they’re poor.ã€€
“You shouldn’t take our kids because we’ve fallen on hard times,” said Prince Leonard, a married father of six whose family resides in a northeast Houston storage shed.
The Leonards moved in three years ago after the father, an unemployed welder, was hired as a maintenance worker.ã€€
The family had already lost an apartment and believed the homeless shelter wasn’t safe enough.
“This is much more secure,” said Charlomane Leonard. “Our children can play outside here.”
Recently, a passerby spotted the children outside and reported them to Child Protective Services.ã€€
A caseworker investigated, and the state took custody of the kids.ã€€
According to CPS, the children were removed because the storage shed was a dangerous living environment.
The shed, which lacks running water, is about 12 feet wide and 25 feet long.ã€€
It has an air conditioner, a refrigerator and two personal computers. The Leonards said their kids were well cared for and happy there.
Now they’re fighting to have their children returned.ã€€
“We just want them back where they belong,” said Mr. Leonard.