Ending homelessness unites KC schools, churches and social agencies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Growing numbers of homeless students in the Center School District are prompting school, church and social service leaders to work together to change.

The collective impact strategy is designed to help more students graduate.

The campaign is modeled after a successful strategy underway across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas, where a collaborative community effort has already cut in half the number of homeless students there.

Center administrators estimate they have nearly 200 students who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Two churches in the district are leading the campaign to pool community resources, getting commitments from agencies, not just for housing, but addressing other obstacles like adult education, parenting skills and childcare. Organizers said these hurdles can make families homeless without wraparound support.

"As a school district we want to do everything we can to help support our students, but there's never quite enough," said Sharon Nibbelink, Center School District superintendent. "Never quite enough staff, never quite enough resources. This group, they inspire me. They came together and said, 'What can we do to help?'"

The Impact Center Schools campaign seeks to establish a one-stop resource center, enabling parents to find jobs, housing, health care, legal aid and parenting assistance.

The goal is to provide a stable environment for homeless students, with the churches paying for a licensed social worker to serve as a case manager for each family.

Colonial Presbyterian Church will host a collective impact forum next month to gauge just how much support there is to start solving the problem.

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