Minneapolis Public Schools families facing housing instability will have more opportunities to receive rental assistance this fall — a response to the rising number of homeless and highly mobile students in the city.

Stable Homes Stable Schools, an initiative launched in 2019, helps families find and pay for housing. This fall, the program's multiyear rental assistance will be offered to families at these additional city elementary schools: Emerson, Lake Nokomis Keewaydin and Wenonah, Loring, Seward and Lyndale.

The program's housing stability fund, which offers emergency assistance to families at risk of eviction, will also be expanded and made available to families at all 43 elementary schools in Minneapolis. Families who access the assistance pay about one-third of their income toward rent, with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority paying the remainder directly to the property owner.

"We are incredibly proud of the success of Stable Homes Stable Schools, and we look forward to supporting even more families in the coming years with safe, stable, affordable housing to help their children succeed in the classroom," said Abdi Warsame, executive director and CEO of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.

Stable Homes Stable Schools is a partnership between the city, the school district, the housing authority, the county and the YMCA of the North. So far, the program has assisted more than 4,200 students from 1,500 families.

Hennepin County is investing an additional $2.2 million in local homelessness prevention funds to support the program expansion.

David Hewitt, Hennepin County housing stability director, said staffers are also looking at expanding the model to other school districts within the county.

The rising need has been driven by a variety of factors, from the lack of affordable housing to the end of the eviction moratorium in place during the pandemic.

Last school year, nearly 1 in 10 MPS students were identified as homeless or highly mobile.

"It's a staggering number," said interim Superintendent Rochelle Cox, adding that helping a family find and afford housing can directly boost student attendance and performance at school. "I think I speak for everyone at MPS when I say we are thrilled to see this program expand."

School social workers help identify families who might be eligible for support through Stable Homes Stable Schools. In some schools, that's the social worker's full-time job. Still, those staffers often face the challenge of finding affordable housing within school attendance boundaries and landlords willing to participate in the program.

"It's not just the money that we need — it's also the literal supply of housing," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the program expansion. "That's one of the big pieces. We want these ongoing relationships with landlords themselves."

Knee'Sha Lungelow, a member of the Stable Homes Stable Schools parent advisory committee, said her participation in the program meant that her children — ages 17, 11, 9, 7 and 5 — feel more settled. Their attendance and enthusiasm for school have improved now that the family isn't couch surfing.

"I love the fact that more families will be able to experience the support that my family has experienced," Lungelow said. "To have the support that I've had is amazing."