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The Cove board Chair David Brennan, (from left), The Cove Executive Director Kelly Atkinson, Methodist Children’s Home CEO Trey Oakley, MCH Family Outreach Director Marissa Smith, and MCH Family Outreach program director Brooke Davilla stand in front of the building on Waco Drive that will house The Cove starting next month.

The Cove will move into a new space owned by the Methodist Children’s Home next month, doubling its capacity to serve homeless students.

The two organizations will remain separate entities, though they serve people in a similar age range, and officials hope their new proximity can help them work more closely together.

“We’re leveraging each other’s strengths and we’ve been serving the same type of young people, just in really unique ways,” Cove Executive Director Kelly Atkinson said. “We’re excited about serving shoulder-to-shoulder and maybe leveraging those connections even more.”

Methodist Children’s Home moved into the building near Fifth Street and Waco Drive early last year, opening up a Family Outreach Center on the second floor to provide a more visible location away from its sprawling main residential campus on Herring Avenue. With more than 5,000 square feet on the first floor, the new Cove space will be able to serve up to 100 teens, and the two entities will share meeting space and outdoor areas.

Some teenagers The Cove serves already go on to live at Methodist Children’s Home, and the Children’s Home’s Independent Living program serves some of the same teenagers once they have graduated from high school, helping them transition into their adult lives.

“Based on previous experience, we have placed numerous kids that were in a homeless situation in a facility with them,” Cove board Chair Dave Brennan said. “They had the availability. They saw the need. They have a relationship with us.”

The Cove has operated out of a facility on Washington Avenue since it opened in late 2016 to provide a place for homeless Waco ISD students to go after school for a meal, shower, laundry and help with school work. It does not serve as a shelter but offers a range of support services. The new space will also come with a commercial kitchen where staff can prepare meals. Atkinson said the number of teenagers at The Cove varies from day to day and depends on how many students Waco ISD can identify and send their way. On a busy day, it can see as many as 22 students.

“The beautiful thing about this facility is that it’s a space we can grow into,” Atkinson said.

Under normal circumstances, April would have been a peak month as students returned from spring break and went to The Cove for academic help and case work. Because of the ongoing pandemic, The Cove has been offering mobile services and deliveries instead of opening its doors. Officials are developing a summer program that would allow for social distancing.

“There are a lot of things about school starting back that we just don’t know,” Atkinson said. “We think that there will be more students who need a safe place like The Cove, even after COVID-19 kind of settles.”

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