Is Living In A Shed Unsafe For Children?

A Houston husband and wife recently had their six children removed from their home by child protective services. The problem is their home is a storage shed, the kind most people rent and store furniture in. But the family contends the children were healthy and their surroundings were actually safer than the apartment they moved from. Bill Stamps has their story in east Houston.

“That’s Abdulla, that’s Raheem and that’s Sabrina, but I have three more.”

Thirty-four year old Prince Leonard shows me pictures of his six children. He’s allowed to visit them, but they haven’t lived together since a social worker with child protective services took them two days before Father’s Day.

“She said, CPS is coming to take our children away from us. And I was like for what? Well, they said they can’t live here. And I said, well, let me talk to the lady.”

CPS is saying very little publicly about the case and didn’t return KUHF’s call. But it’s been reported that they received a tip about a family living in a storage shed. Two weeks ago a case worker showed up, took a look around and told Leonard’s wife Charlemagne she was taking the kids.

“We made do with what we had. And our children weren’t suffering. We bought like 900 dollars a month worth of groceries for our kids to eat and our kids were nice and healthy when these people came out and took my children from me.”

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The shed is big enough to hold two cars. Leonard showed me around the shed he converted into small home.

“This is where I keep my food at — right in here. That’s for our heat, air conditioning. That’s our refrigerator over there, bookshelf, a computer for them to do their school work.”

The kids are homeschooled. Charlemagne Leonard says she takes their education very seriously.

“We start off in the morning. They all start on the same lessons, like we might start math on Monday.”

“None of my kids none of them has made anything lower than a B in class and they’re commended every year on their state exams.”

Prince Leonard is a welder. He doesn’t make a lot, but more than you would assume for someone living in a storage shed. But he says the old apartment his family lived in had roaches and rats and the police were there constantly. He says the storage unit, which has barbed wire and requires a code to gain access, is actually safer than their old apartment complex. Community activist Quanell X is now helping them find a new home. But they still don’t have their children.

“It’s not the best place that anyone would choose to live. But this is what they call home. Now we’ve got them a better place, a decent place for them to live. What I say to CPS, don’t you punish this family anymore for being poor.  This man and this wife are doing the best they possibly can. They’re not drug dealers; they’re not criminals. This man ain’t never been to prison, ain’t been to jail. Why are they doing him like that? At the end of the day bring this family back together.”

Leonard says he could have stayed in the old apartment or even sought out government help to move the family into a nice government subsidized unit, but says he’s not asking anyone for a hand out.

“I’ve always been the type of guy, I want to work and take care of my family. But everybody, they feel like I should be section 8 housing, food stamps, Tannif. But what kind of life is that? What am I supposed to show my sons?”

Right now, Leonard can’t show his children anything because Harris County won’t let them back into the home, even if it is a storage shed.