A new program that kicks off this week in St. Paul will help address student homelessness in the city.
Teachers and school staff at several St. Paul public schools are teaming up to identify students whose families could use help paying rent. Then the city will give those families $300 a month for up to three years. It is part of St. Paul’s new Families First Housing pilot program.
Mayor Melvin Carter said the goal of the program is to ease housing cost burdens immediately, providing more stability for students and helping them do better in school. He said many St. Paul families are on four-year waiting lists for other common types of housing support already.
In a classroom at John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School on Tuesday, Carter asked the teachers for their continued help in identifying students who may be chronically close to homelessness.
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"Our teachers have intimate relationships with the families and students they serve and they see the students and can tell when something is going on,” Carter said.
St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said that parents of students in pre-K to third grade at seven St. Paul schools, including John A. Johnson Achievement Plus, can apply for the program currently. The schools will give qualifying families the tools needed to apply, Gothard said.
"We want to make it clear we want to remove the stigma of our families in need asking for help and in this case, we have the support to give them when that help is requested,” Gothard said.
Participating St. Paul public schools are:
Benjamin E. Mays IB World School
Jackson Elementary School
Maxfield Elementary School
Dayton’s Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary
John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary
Saint Paul City School
Saint Paul Music Academy
The rent subsidy program is funded with $3 million from the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s Housing Trust Fund and local foundations. It will support up to 250 families for up to three years each.
Qualifying families must have an income at or below 30 percent of area-median income — $30,000 for a family of four, for example — and should be paying 40 percent or more of their income for rent, with no other housing subsidy.
The pilot program has funding through the next five years and the city hopes to add more families each year.
“We are working to do the evaluation necessary so that at the end of our five-year pilot period we will know exactly what impact we had on the community and what our next steps will be beyond that,” Carter said.