Minneapolis city officials have stabilized the home lives of more than 160 homeless students in Minneapolis Public Schools since launching an ambitious program to help them, according to a report presented Wednesday at the City Council’s Housing Policy & Development Committee meeting.
Meanwhile, about 193 additional school-age children in Minneapolis are going through the screening process, program leaders said.
“The program is working, and it’s sufficient,” said Kyle Hanson, director of the housing choice voucher and human services programs for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA).
The city launched Stable Homes, Stable Schools in the 2018-19 school year to help homeless students in the state’s third-largest school district, where as many as one of 10 are homeless. The three-year pilot targets 15 elementary schools with the highest rates of homelessness. The goal is to give rental assistance and social services to 320 families of about 650 students to find housing near their school.
To date, 13 families have been housed and six have been approved for rental housing units and are waiting to sign a lease, officials said. Meanwhile, emergency funds from the Pohlad Family Foundation, which help prevent families from experiencing homelessness, have assisted about 40 families, and 26 more are in line to get help.
But program officials said they are wrestling with the tight housing market. Mayor Jacob Frey has been working with the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, which represents more than 2,200 property owners across the state, to find vacant units.
So far, 29 new units have been made available to program participants, Hanson said. But more than 20 families are still looking for vacant units.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Council Member Jeremiah Ellison expressed some concerns about the financial sustainability of the program and whether three years is enough to serve the growing number of homeless families. The city is chipping in $3.4 million annually. MPHA, which administers the program, is contributing $1.4 million a year in rental subsidies. And the Pohlad Family Foundation is investing $500,000 over the next two years.
Hanson said program leaders are seeking out philanthropic help to make sure the program can be sustained long-term.
“We are going to create this really cool resource, and it’s going to be gone in a flash,” Ellison said. “But the human impact we’re having on those families who are able to take advantage of this is undeniable.”