State Funds Efforts to Help Homeless Schoolchildren, Families

More than $1.5 million in grants awarded for Homeless Student Stability programs across the state

As families face rising rents and historically low vacancy rates, more schoolchildren are increasingly living in unstable situations, moving frequently between shelters, family and friends’ homes, and other temporary housing.

In Washington state, about one public school student in 25 is homeless.

Improving the learning and housing stability of those students takes a coordinated approach. A grant program started in 2016, renewed this year, will help with that effort.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Washington state Department of Commerce recently awarded a total of about $1.7 million to 26 organizations around the state. The grants supplement school districts’ ability to provide in-school support, prioritizing unaccompanied youth and unsheltered students and families.

The grants were made available through House Bill 1682, passed in 2016. Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, and was one of the bill’s sponsors.

“Without stable housing, students lose an estimated three to six months of academic progress each time they move to a new school,” Reykdal said. “The grants will provide crucial in-school support for those students.”

The bill established the Homeless Student Stability Program and authorizes two sets of annual grants, if funding is available:

From the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, to build homeless education program capacity at school districts; and
From the Department of Commerce, to support Homeless Housing Partnerships (HHP) between school districts and housing entities.

“Growing inside our thriving state economy is a homeless crisis that touches thousands of Washington families,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. ”Schools are the heart of our neighborhoods and these grants are strengthening communities by providing stability for kids and their families who are struggling.”

The grants also will be used to fund caseworkers, or “homeless housing navigators,” in schools, as well as to provide essential needs, such as transportation to get students to school after they move, or assistance to avoid utilities being shut off in family homes.

OSPI

OSPI received 47 applications from across the state, requesting more than $3.9 million in total. State funding allowed for 12 awards totaling about $850,000. The funds will be used for a variety of programs, such as providing professional development for staff, partnerships with community-based organizations and tutors for homeless students.

Organizations receiving grants include:

· Bellingham Consortia, $52,228

· Bethel School District, $92,127

· Evergreen School District (Clark), $83,943

· Kelso Consortia, $111,452

· Mount Adams School District, $65,422

· North Thurston Public Schools, $98,654

· Seattle Public Schools, $91,697

· Selah School District, $4,000

· South Whidbey School District, $64,000

· Spokane School District, $55,000

· Tacoma School District, $104,207

· Taholah School District, $25,200

Department of Commerce

The department received 14 applications from school districts and their non-profit community service organizations across the state, with a total request of about $2 million. State funding allowed for nine awards totaling $875,000. The awards will help school districts identify homeless students and unaccompanied youth and rapidly connect them with housing services and agencies in their communities.

Districts awarded grants are:

· Evergreen Public Schools, partnering with Council for the Homeless, $270,000

· Bellingham Public Schools, partnering with Opportunity Council and Northwest Youth Services, $195,000

· Highline Public Schools, partnering with Neighborhood House, $118,000

· Wenatchee School District, partnering with Women’s Resource Center, $72,000

· Everett Public Schools, partnering with Cocoon House, $60,000

· Woodland School District, partnering with Love Overwhelming, $55,000

· Shelton School District, partnering with Mason County Housing Options for Students in Transition, $45,000

· Mount Vernon School District, partnering with YMCA Oasis Teen Shelter, $35,000

· South Whidbey School District, partnering with Opportunity Council, $25,000

For more information

· Homeless Student Stability Program

· Homeless education in Washington state

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