Waco is one step closer to having a teen nurturing center as The Cove completes the final steps of becoming a certified nonprofit group.

Modeled after a Georgetown center, The Cove will provide a place for displaced teenagers to go after school where they can do laundry, eat and get help with homework.

It will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and available to high school students only.

Having The Cove will raise the likelihood of students finding a safe place to sleep at night, said Cheryl Pooler, Waco Independent School District homeless liaison.

The district assists an average of 1,200 homeless students per year, many of whom “couch surf” because their home life is unsafe, Pooler said.

“They’re at school this morning but they’re not quite sure where they’re going to sleep tonight, and there’s never an organized plan on, ‘How I’m going to eat dinner and if I get sick, who’s going to help me get to the doctor?’ ” she said.

State and federal regulations, along with the cost, make it difficult to provide an overnight program, but families are often more willing to allow students to stay in their homes if they arrive clean and fed at night, Pooler said.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act defines homeless students as those who are transient because of a lack of housing or economic hardship, or “have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”

Rosemary Townsend, a member of The Cove’s board of directors, said the group is searching for a space to house the center. It needs to be about 10,000 square feet with a kitchen and a place to eventually install showers, she said.

Pooler estimates The Cove will cost between $300,000 and $500,000 annually in money and in-kind donations.

The fundraising has already begun with the scheduled 5K and 10K Turkey Trot on Nov. 21, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Tickets cost $30 for the 5K and $35 for the 10K. Portions of the money raised will go toward The Cove, Townsend said.

The goal is to have the center up and running by the spring semester of the 2016-17 school year, she said.

Townsend said she hopes The Cove can provide a hot meal in the evening and healthy snacks for students to take with them. Organizers also hope to have volunteers to provide tutoring and some counselors, she said.

Townsend said she thinks The Cove is crucial for the community, because it enables students in poverty to access the safe resources they need.

“All of our children are all of our children,” Townsend said.

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At a glance

What: Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 5K and 1K

When: 7:30 a.m. Nov. 21

Cost: $25 for the 5K; $20 for the 1K; $15 for children ages 12 and younger

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