St. Paul to help school families with new housing program

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At an after school meeting at John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary School, teachers were introduced to a first of its kind program in St. Paul Schools called Families First Housing Pilot.

The program will provide $300 in monthly rent supplements to families in need who have children in the district.

"Our goal is to keep students in the same classes, in the same learning environments, in the same buildings, in the same circle of friends," St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said.

The students have to be from one of seven participating schools and be in kindergarten through third grade. 

Families must not be receiving another housing subsidy, and family income must be at or below $30,000 a year, with 40 percent of that income going toward rent.

Superintendent Joe Gothard says more than 2,000 of his students experience some type of homelessness each year.

"We want to make it clear that we want to remove the stigma of our families in need asking for help, we have the support to give them when that help is requested," Gothard said.

Families must be referred by teachers or school staff. The district says that work will start immediately.

"Our goal is to connect families as soon as possible, so these resources will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis as we identify families who are eligible," Carter said. "And the goal is to have about a 20-day turnaround from the point of application to the point of receiving the first resources."

A total of $3 million has been set aside from the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority's Housing Trust Fund. That money will help 250 families over the next five years.