Homeless CPS students to receive housing, support as part of new program

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COLUMBIA- Some help is coming for Columbia's homeless students. 

Veterans United Foundation and Columbia Public Schools have partnered to launch a program that would provide housing and programming for homeless students who are away from their parents.

Twenty Veterans United employees studied various issues in the community for months and decided to focus on addressing issues within the educational system, according to Veteran's United.

The program will launch at Douglass High School but they hope it will serve as a model to be implemented at other schools in the district and across the state.

Construction is already underway on a house being built for some of the students. Veteran's United spokesperson Chris Cline said the funding for the house will come from the Veteran's United Foundation through donations by employees.

In addition to housing, the initiative will also provide programming, mentorship, internships and career coaching for students. 

Currently, the initiative is hiring "house parents" to live in the home with the students. According to the job listing, the house parent will be paid $1,000 a month.

The district said the 2018-2019 school year ended with 141 students classified as homeless at Columbia Public Schools. So far this school year, there are 95 students  classified as homeless, according to the district's spokesperson, Michelle Baumstark. 

She said, however, that number is fluid as status of students can change and "students who may be couch surfing, for example, or staying with a friend may not report as homeless," Baumstark said. 

"We do everything we can as a district to identify those students and provide the necessary supports they may  need and to help them access resources available in the community," said Baumstark

The program's coordinators said the house will open in about 3-4 months. 

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