The state’s new $675 million Ohio Student Wellness and Success Fund could help pave the way for homeless services agencies to partner with local school districts to restore housing stability to families struggling with homelessness.
The state fiscal year 2020-2021 budget (HB 166), which created the Student Wellness and Success Fund, provides additional funding to school districts and community schools to support academic achievement through mental health counseling, wraparound services, mentoring, family engagement, after-school programs, and other services.
“Services for homeless youth” is one of eleven specifically approved initiatives. Since school districts can work with community organizations, like local nonprofit homeless services agencies, it appears that rapid rehousing and homeless prevention programs targeting enrolled school children and their families would be eligible expenditures.
“The legislation was left intentionally open-ended to allow for maximum flexibility at the district level,” said Anna Miller, school-based health coordinator for the Ohio Department of Education. “We encourage districts to make sure they have a clear implementation plan that outlines how the funds will be used and how the service supports homeless youth.”
School districts can use their Student Wellness funding to bolster existing school programs or staff, but ODE is encouraging them to plan purposefully to address significant needs in their communities, she said.
With about 25,600 homeless students in Ohio, a number that has increased significantly in recent years, stable housing is clearly a significant need in many communities.
Miller said homeless services agencies should reach out to their local school district officials to discuss the potential for using Student Wellness and Success funding to forge new partnerships to serve homeless students.
Funding is allocated on a per-pupil basis based on poverty data from the federal census. Schools will receive a minimum of $25,000 in FY 2020 and $36,000 in FY 2021 (see COHHIO’s Student Wellness Fund Summary).
Funds are distributed to districts twice a year, with the first half disbursed in October and the second half going out in mid-February, Miller said. Districts are not required to spend the money each year, and can invest it over several years to ensure they have sufficient time to establish effective community partnerships and programs.
For additional information or consultation from ODE, please contact:
Anna Miller, School-Based Health Coordinator
Ohio Department of Education, Office of Integrated Student Supports