Ending student homelessness in the Center School District


The mission of the Impact Center program is to end student homelessness

in the Center School District within four years.



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Homelessness is a problem for any family, but when it involves school-age children, the impacts are even more significant. You can imagine how difficult it is for a student to learn when they are worried about where they will be sleeping that night or when their next meal may be coming. Students in homeless families struggle with regular attendance 


The purpose of this page is to provide more detailed information on the Impact Center program and how your donation will be used to help end homelessness for Center Students. We'll cover the following topics:


  • Statistics on the impact of homelessness on student learning and how big a problem it is in Center
  • Why homelessness is a difficult problem to solve
  • How the Impact Center program works and why it's model is so successful
  • What the current needs are for Impact Center and how your donation will make a difference for students

The impact of homelessness/housing insecurity on students


When we talk about homelessness for Center students, we are not only talking about families who have no permanent home, but those who have insecure housing. This simply means that their housing situation is unstable in that they are living with family or friends, or in a situation with no assurance of being able to stay there long term. The impacts on students are the same. They wake up every day not knowing where home may be that night. They are often unsure about when and what they will eat. They don't know if they will have a place to do their homework. They often move frequently from one place to another, sometimes requiring multiple changes in school during the academic year. Studies show that students that move during the school year can lose up to 3/4 of a year of learning as they adjust to new curriculum, new social groups, and new rules and expectations. 


These impacts affect not only the homeless students. A statistic called "mobility rate" measures how many students come in and out of the classroom during the year. The district average for Center is just under 40%. This means that when a classroom teacher greets their students on the first day of school, they can expect that 4 in 10 of those faces will be different by the end of the year. The disruption that this creates in the classroom affects all of the students in the class, not just the ones that move in and out. 


For students who are trying to overcome the challenges of poverty, adding in the disruptions of insecure housing and homelessness makes a difficult situation even worse. At any point in time, about 300 of the 2,600 students in the Center School district are homeless or in very insecure housing.


This is the problem that Impact Center intends to solve.


Why homelessness is a difficult problem to solve


We all have challenges in our life. Bouncing back from adversity is a common theme in nearly all stories of individual and family success. What we find with families that are homeless is that the adversity in their life has overwhelmed their ability to bounce back. It is usually a combination of factors that include a things like job loss (or poorly paying jobs), unstable family life, substance abuse, mental or physical health issues, family violence, neighborhood violence, and lack of good role models. In many cases, these factors have existed in a family for multiple generations, making poverty a way of life with no easy way out. As a history of job loss, evictions, unpaid bills, and health issues add up, the barriers to getting out of homelessness get higher and higher. The challenge of dealing with multiple bureaucratic organizations makes the problem all the more difficult. Families get to the point where they simply cannot solve the issues on their own. They need a friend with the experiences and resources to help them.


How Impact Center works and why the model is successful


Impact Center is based on a model developed by the Kansas Community Leadership Enterprise about five years ago in cooperation with the Kansas City Kansas school district to address the needs of about 1,400 homeless students in that district. Operated by Avenue of Life, the program has reduced the number of homeless students by about 50% in its first four years of operation. The concept is simple - the school district identifies families who are ready to do the hard work of changing their life trajectory. Avenue of Life assigns them a Case Manager (the friend) who works intensively with the family to connect them to the various resources (partner agencies) that can help them with their unique circumstances. The partner agencies have made  a commitment to work with Avenue of Life and their case manager to break down the barriers and overcome the bureaucratic challenges for each family. As the families (both parents and kids) develop the skills (like budgeting and caring for a home), Avenue of Life helps them find dignified, affordable housing. The support then continues for that family until all of their children have graduated from high school, helping to ensure that they don't fall back into old habits. 


The success of the model is astounding. Over 95% of the families placed in permanent housing are still housed 18 months after placement, a truly amazing statistic if you look at various programs for the homeless nationwide.


Impact Center is working closely with the leaders of the Avenue of Life program to replicate the model in the Center community. A community non-profit organization called Serve the World Charities is serving as the backbone agency (same role played by Avenue of Life in KCK). Serve the World, in conjunction with several other community organizations including Colonial Presbyterian Church, Caring for Kids, Holmeswood Baptist Church and the Center School District have organized the Impact Center program. A variety of partner agencies have been recruited and have agreed to participate. The program is working on a small scale with a group of families, and is already starting to show success. The next step is to raise the funds to hire a case manager so that the program can be expanded.


Click here if you want to read an Assessment Study of the program that was completed in 2018 by the L.P. Cookingham Institute of Urban Affairs at UMKC.


How your donation will make a difference


The most pressing need for Impact Center to be successful is to hire a full-time case manager to work directly and intensively with families to help them overcome their individual barriers to housing success. In 2019, the Center Education Foundation Board of Directors decided to support the Impact Center Program as a major initiative. We are asking for your support to help us fund the case manager position to support our students and families.


As noted above, the families being served by the Impact Center Program have hit a point in life where they cannot dig out of the hole by themselves. They need a friend. Impact Center will provide that friend in the form of the case manager. Just as importantly, that friend will have access to the resources of the entire community to help the family get out of the hole, find stability in their life, and allow their children to thrive and build a brighter future for their life.


You can be part of that helping hand by making your donation today.



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1221 W 103rd St

Suite 164

Kansas City MO 64114

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