Written by Denise Miller, Firesteel Advocacy Manager
Across Washington state, children are heading back to school. More than 35,000 of those students do not have a stable home.
Getting an education while experiencing homelessness creates a variety of challenges for children, their families, and educators. Poverty and homelessness can have devastating effects on children’s academic and behavioral development. Students who switch schools due to homelessness engage less with school, get worse grades, and are more likely to drop out. High rates of churn can create chaos in schools, affecting even students who remain.
Every student deserves a quality education, and we can’t let children who lack stable homes fall through the cracks. Advocates have been working to ensure that students experiencing homelessness are well supported by school districts, and to provide new opportunities for stable homes for families.
This year, we celebrated a big victory when Washington lawmakers passed the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act. Our partners at Columbia Legal Services have a great post on how this law will help students:
One part of the law created grants to help families get and maintain stable homes. Four communities, including Everett, are receiving the grants.
More than 1,100 of Everett Public Schools’s 20,000 students are experiencing homelessness, the Everett Herald reported. The school district is contracting with YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish to hire a housing navigator who will connect families with rental assistance and other resources to help them get stable homes.
YWCA Housing Services Program Manager Heather Brink, who will oversee the housing navigator, said this is an innovative model that deepens service providers’s relationship with the school district.
The grant, which is currently funded for one year, provides $100,000 in rental assistance and $40,000 in flexible funding. Assisting families living in shelters or outdoors will be the priority, but the funds can also help those that are “doubled-up.” Picture two parents and their three children sleeping in the living room of a relative’s one-bedroom apartment. Families in this type of precarious living situation aren’t considered to be experiencing homelessness under many other programs, but will qualify for help through this grant.
Heather is happy to see advocacy efforts result in real support for students and families.
“We can provide actual prevention, and get in there to stop generational poverty,” Heather said. “I’m really excited because there’s been a gap for families, and this is a genuine solution.”
- Listen to Maggie, Taylor, Lika and Ashley talk about how homelessness has affected their school experience.
- If you’re in the Seattle area, attend “Create Change: Youth & Family Homelessness and the Arts” on Oct. 29. Firesteel is co-presenting this interactive event in partnership with Seattle Public Library and Seattle University as part of the “Streetwise Revisited” project. Join us to learn how to use art and social media to address homelessness.
- Visit the Schoolhouse Washington website for information about Columbia Legal Services’s analysis, ideas, and advocacy to end student homelessness.
- Read the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness’s Guide to Understanding Education Rights for Homeless & Unstably Housed Students.
- Scroll down to the bottom of this page and sign up to receive the Firesteel blog via email. We’ll keep you posted on ways you can speak up and spark change.