State funds efforts to help homeless children, families

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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.

Tacoma School District received $104, 207.

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.

“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 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.

 

 

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