Homelessness among children is a serious issue.

South KC Perspective

Help Eradicate Student Homelessness

By John Sharp

John Sharp

Organizations and individuals who want to help with the recently announced efforts to quickly reduce and eventually eradicate student homelessness in the Center and Hickman Mills School Districts are invited to participate in two free forums later this month to learn more about these efforts and discuss their involvement.

The Hickman Mills forum will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, February 22, at Blue Hills Church, 10306 Blue Ridge Blvd.  Persons should RSVP by contacting Mark Evans at 816-337-8584 or at changemaker@lift-kc.org.

The Center forum will be at the same time on Thursday, February 28, at Colonial Presbyterian Church, 9500 Wornall Rd.  Persons may register at www.servetheworldkc.org or by emailing Chris Buford at chrisbuford@servetheworldkc.org .

Both efforts will utilize a collective impact model that will bring different agencies and individuals together to promptly provide the resources and services that homeless students and their families need to secure safe and stable housing.

These efforts are modeled after a similar program started in the KCK Public Schools in August 2015 that has reduced student homelessness in that school district by more than 50 percent.  There were 1,151 verified homeless students in kindergarten through the 12th grade in that district in the 2014-15 school year.  That number was reduced to only 594 in the 2017-18 school year and has been further reduced this school year.

Center officials have said that district has about 200 students who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and Hickman Mills officials have said that larger district has nearly 500 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The KCK effort provides homeless students and their families intensive case management by assigning a social worker to each family who can help guide them to access the resources and services they need and serve as their advocate if needed.  It also provides a single point of contact (a one-stop-shop) for all needed services and hosts weekly meetings attended by all partner organizations where students and their families can talk directly to the organizations that can provide the help they need to secure permanent housing and other services.

Participating students and their families are required to take four classes that focus on employment, family budgeting, healthcare and housing.

A backbone organization, Avenue of Life, coordinates the efforts of more than 30 partner organizations, raises funds for the program and hires the social workers who serve as navigators and advocates for the students and their families.

In Center, the backbone organization is Serve the World Charities based at Evangel Church, 1414 E. 103rd St., and in Hickman Mills the backbone organization is Life in Full Transformation located at Blue Hills Church.

Both districts plan to have soft launches of their programs in April and May this school year and have two Impact Day meetings in each District each month for homeless students and their families who are referred by their respective school districts to meet with their new case managers and the organizations that can provide the services and resources they need.

Impact Days are not planned for June and July, but both districts plan to have full blown launches of their efforts in August for the 2019-20 school year.

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