Homework Starts with Home Northwest, a YMCA program that supports families experiencing housing instability, will continue after its first year of reducing student homelessness in two districts.

Working in conjunction with Hennepin County and the Osseo and Brooklyn Center school districts, YMCA of the North started the program in April 2022 after seeing a high demand for housing support among students in those districts, according to Bri Warren, program director for YMCA Housing & Homeless Services.

The program has worked with nearly 50 families by providing financial assistance, case management and other services through the schools. So far, the program has a 100% success rate in making sure students and their families have reliable housing, according to Warren.

"It is more than check-cutting and financial assistance — we draw on the strengths of families and collaborate with them on finding a solution," said Warren, who cited the continued economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of the eviction moratorium as factors creating a need for the program.

Homework Starts with Home helps families pay rent, but it also focuses on helping them create stability so they can remain secure in their housing in future. This support takes multiple forms, including teaching family members how to budget and find affordable housing.

"The stability to be able to come to school and stay in the same school is important for students," said Kendra Kuhlmann, a social worker for the Osseo school district.

During the 2021-2022 school year, more than 550 families in the Osseo district experienced homelessness, and 40% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch, Kuhlmann said.

Homework Starts with Home will continue for another two years and aims to serve a total of 250 families.

"A lot of families are one paycheck away from being at risk of homelessness," Warren said. "We want to prevent homelessness, not prolong it."