'Stable Homes, Stable Schools': Minneapolis offers program for homeless youth

When you think about Minnesota’s homeless population, a child might not come to mind, but the reality is there are thousands of kids who are homeless in Minneapolis alone.

Now, a new program aims to get kids and their families into stable living situations. It’s called the “Stable Homes, Stable Schools” initiative.

It’s something Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s office has been working on since last spring.

The goal is to get homeless children attending Minneapolis Public Schools and their families into stable housing by helping pay for their rent and get them back on their feet.

It’s a place homeless families can stop and take a breath.

“We want them to feel like this is a respite in the midst of the chaos they may be experiencing or in the midst of a crisis situation,” said Rinal Ray, of People Serving People.

People Serving People says it is the largest homeless shelter for families in the region, serving around 350 people per night in downtown Minneapolis.

Many of their guests are kids.

“Two-thirds are children and the average age of kids in our shelter is 6,” Ray said.

Ray says everyone has a different story of how they got to People Serving People, but some things are the same.

“A lot of parents try to maintain routines and try to keep things as normal as possible to try to keep a sense of stability,” Ray said.

Part of that stability includes making sure the kids stay in their home schools. Minneapolis Public Schools buses the kids to and from the shelters, but Frey believes there is a more permanent solution.

“Housing is a right,” Frey said. “Everyone deserves that safe place to go home to at the end of the night.”

“Stable Homes, Stable Schools” is a new collaborative effort between the city, Minneapolis Public Schools, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and Hennepin County to help homeless families in the school district find affordable housing. Plus, the program will help pay for it.

“That’s about 3,000 students that are experiencing homelessness or severe housing instability,” Frey said. “In the first three years, we have a goal of helping around 320 families and around 640 kids.

Late last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved the money for the pilot program at about $3.35 million a year.

Frey says the families will be chosen from 15 schools with a higher population of homeless students. The families will pay 30 percent and the program will cover the rest and it will keep the kids close to their schools.

“We want to make sure people have that stability from which they can rise and that stability starts with a place to go home to at night,” Frey added.

Each person in the program will have a case manager and wrap around services will be through that person.