Waco: Coalition awarded millions to combat youth homelessness

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Waco has been awarded millions of dollars Thursday from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat youth homelessness.

The Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition received $2.23 million from HUD.

"It's amazing it's going to be a game changer for our community," said coalition chair Shaun Lee.

"The last time they counted it was just over 1,000 kids are homeless just in the WISD and 200 of those kids are unaccompanied."

The grant money could be used to set up programs and a transitional home where students can stay for as long as two years.

"I know a facility with transitional housing for youth is definitely something that we're going to consider, and host homes like what the Cove was considering is definitely going to be also funded with this program as well," Lee said.

The Cove opened in 2016 in Waco to serve the hundreds of Waco ISD students identified as homeless.

During the last school year, The Cove provided a place for more than 300 homeless Waco ISD students to do homework, hangout, have a hot meal together and do laundry.

The Cove’s executive director, Kelly Atkinson, says it’s shocking where some students sleep at night.

"We know of students who are sleeping on the floor of the laundry room and they put their feet on the door so they know if someone comes in that is unsafe their going to be awakened,” she said.

"Research has shown that one of the most effective practices for housing especially youth under 18 is host homes,” she said, and so that's one of the things that we would love to develop at The Cove with other organizations in this community.”

HUD awarded $75 million to 23 local communities across the country, and just two in Texas, including eight rural areas.

This year’s funding level is but jump compared to the $43 million awarded last year.

“Homelessness is no way to start out in life for young people reaching adulthood,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Today we make another critical investment in the futures of our youth, sparing them a life on the streets or in our shelters and placing them on a path to self-sufficiency.”