Public school student homelessness is a national crisis affecting more than 1 million children in grades K-12. The City of Topeka, Topeka Public Schools, and more than 35 community partner organizations are working to end student homelessness through the Impact Avenues program.
Impact Avenues reached 207 families with 525 children from its launch in August 2019 through July 2021, making it possible for 73 families with 186 children to reach a permanent housing solution. Moreover, 191 families received utility assistance that allowed them to remain stably housed, 108 individuals received mental health services, 61 families received transportation assistance, and 31 families received legal help during this period. 49% of the families in the program were not employed at entry and are now fully employed.
“Topeka is dedicated to ensuring that no student has to endure the burden and stigma that is associated with homelessness. Impact Avenues is a powerful force for good in Topeka and Shawnee County. Its skilled, innovative, and compassionate approach to student homelessness will continue to help families break the cycle of poverty through housing stability, educational attainment, and economic mobility for years to come.” said Corrie Wright, Division Director of Housing Services for the City of Topeka. “I am very proud that Impact Avenues has been able to help over five hundred children become housed, and continue to stay housed in its first two years. I’m excited to continue the important work and continue to help eradicate child homelessness in our community.”
Impact Avenues is a replication of the nationally recognized Impact KCK program in Wyandotte County, Kansas. The program combines the skillful application of the Collective Impact Model for Community Change with a number of social service innovations to effectively serve homeless students and their families.
Impact Avenues uses a two-generation approach to addressing student homelessness and a wide array of wraparound services to achieve its goals. Innovative social service practices include (1) a single point of service; (2) intensive case management provided by an Impact Navigator; and (3) connection with a permanent housing solution. In addition, effective management and continuous improvement are supported by developmental evaluation, a method that provides real time assessment of program outcomes, challenges, and opportunities that further strengthens program effectiveness.
A student is considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (i.e., living in cars, parks, public spaces, house sharing, couch surfing, living in motels or campgrounds due to the lack of adequate accommodations, living in emergency shelters, etc.). To qualify for Impact Avenues, a student has to be referred through a school liaison. Children and their families will get the support they need to obtain stable housing and assistance with overcoming barriers to success like transportation, employment, financial literacy, healthcare and others.
The community infrastructure organized by Impact Avenues made it possible to quickly respond to the emergency needs of children and families when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Kansas. This response has included services ranging from care calls to determine family needs to connections with financial resources to delivery of food and other necessities. Emergency relief has been extended to all families, not just those who are designated Impact Avenues families.
How to help:
For more information, please go to https://www.topeka.org/impact-avenues/.
If your organization is willing to assist us in this crucial effort, please contact Impact Avenues program lead, Corrie Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contribute to ongoing expenses for the program, you can donate online at https://www.topekacommunityfoundation.org/Donate/ and select the “Impact Avenues Fund”, or send a check directly to the Topeka Community Foundation with “Impact Avenues Fund” in the memo line.