The United Way of Central Carolinas has put together a $600,000 program that will help Charlotte-area students at risk of homelessness graduate from high school.
The organization said Friday that it has gone in with the Ohio-based Siemer Institute for Family Stability to fund two Mecklenburg County housing organizations that will help keep families in homes and support children academically while they find stability.
Charlotte Family Housing and the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson will use $100,000 each for three years to hire a social worker who will work with families with school-age children.
The effort is part of the United Way’s larger goal of tackling community problems in what’s known as a collective impact strategy. Instead of simply giving money to dozens of organizations, United Way picks issues and then funds groups that can help work on them.
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In 2012, the United Way announced it wanted to help raise graduation rates among at-risk students. Last year, the group said it would tackle homelessness. The program announced Friday addresses both.
The new social workers will be able to help about 50 families, Charlotte Family Housing executive director Stephen Smith said. That can be through rent payment assistance and incentives for saving money. At the same time, the social workers will track the children’s progress in school and help direct them to tutors or other academic support as needed, he said.
“It’s not that we solve all their problems, because we can’t,” Smith said. “But the ability to help stabilize their situation is really a big key for the program.”
About 4,100 students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are homeless, the United Way said.
Friday’s United Way grant announcement was accompanied by the first results of how the “collective impact” program has performed in its first two years. The group worked with UNC Charlotte’s Institute for Social Capital to see how students who have used United Way programs have performed in school.
The United Way reported that more than 80 percent either stayed stable or improved in math and reading scores and in the number of suspensions from school. About half had the same number of absences from school or fewer.