NEWS RELEASE: State awards $1 million to increase housing stability for homeless families

New program recognizes housing stability is key to student success

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Department of Commerce has awarded $1 million under the state’s Homeless Student Stability Act to expand programs in school districts that will help identify and rapidly connect homeless students and their families with housing services and agencies in their community.

The number of homeless school children in Washington State has increased by 82 percent in the last 10 years, according to Columbia Legal Services, while only 8 percent of schools receive federal funding to address this growing barrier to student achievement. Without stable housing, students lose an estimated three to six months of academic progress each time they move to a new school.

In addition to funding case workers, or “homeless housing navigators,” in schools, grants can be used for rental assistance, transportation assistance to get kids to school after they move, and emergency shelter.

Commerce received 18 applications from school districts across the state with a total request of $5,170,905. The following districts were awarded funding:

· Everett Public Schools, partnering with YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish, $198,750
· Ocean Beach, South Bend and Raymond School District consortium, partnering with Coastal Community Action Agency, $200,558
· Bellingham Public Schools, partnering with Opportunity Council and Northwest Youth Services, $100,692
· Evergreen School District in Clark County, partnering with the Council for the Homeless, $500,000

“These grants will help to strengthen these communities by providing school districts much-needed resources to contact and house vulnerable students and their families,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender.

Housing affordability is a growing problem nearly everywhere, not just cities like Seattle, he added.

As more families struggle to keep up with rising rents and historically low vacancy rates, many more school children are now living in unstable situations, moving frequently between shelters, family and friends’ homes, and other temporary housing.

The Homeless Student Stability Program, administered by the state’s Housing Assistance Unit at the Department of Commerce. Funds will help to identify families in need and match assistance to their situations, beginning with stable housing.

Contact: Penny Thomas, Commerce Press Office, (206) 256-6106
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