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Adult walking young child to school.

Community partnerships help homeless students

Johnson County residents are best served when organizations throughout the community work together to solve problems and create solutions. That’s certainly the case for students in both the Olathe and Shawnee Mission school districts who are or about to be housing insecure.

Project H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities Move Everyone) in the Shawnee Mission School District and Impact Olathe for the Olathe Public Schools are collaborative community programs that serve students and families who are considered homeless by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The broad definition of homelessness, according to McKinney-Vento, is children or youth who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” It is not just students who live on the streets or in their cars that are considered homeless, it’s also students who live with other families, in a shelter or in a hotel.

The Shawnee Mission School District has partnered with several community organizations, including Johnson County Mental Health (MNH) , to provide centralized access to a plethora of community services twice a month with Project H.O.M.E. Similarly, Olathe Public Schools brings community partners, such as Johnson County Human Services (HSD) , together on a biweekly basis.

There are a lot of barriers for families with housing insecurities, says Olathe Public Schools Community Liaison Heather Schoonover. For many families, scheduling appointments with various community resource agencies all over the county is not possible because of the lack of transportation, the inability to take time off work and other barriers for this families.

In order to remove these barriers, the school districts invite the service providers to all be in one place at the same time. Case managers from the schools schedule centralized appointments with the service providers all in one place. In Olathe, these opportunities happen weekly. In Shawnee Mission, bi-weekly.

Although the Johnson County agencies provide their own immediate services, such as help with utilities and housing options through HSD or brief mental health assessments through MNH, they also provide access and knowledge to dozens of other resources for these families, from tax-preparation to substance abuse counseling. These programs also provide help with employment and access to free breakfast and lunch for the students at school.

Both Project H.O.M.E. and Impact Olathe were recently recognized with the 2018 Excellence in Community Service Award from United Community Services of Johnson County. Other community partners for these programs include: Shawnee Community Services, New City Church, Vineyard Church, Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA, Redeemer Fellowship, United Way of Greater Kansas City, Jewish Family Services, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Workforce Partnership, KS DCF, El Centro, KidsTLC, City of Olathe, Olathe Housing Authority, The Salvation Army, Health Partnership Clinic, reStart Inc. and Olathe Fire Department/Mobile Integrated Health.

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