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 housing vacancy rates, more school children are increasingly living in unstable situations, moving frequently among shelters, family and friends’ homes, and other temporary housing.

According to the 2017 Point in Time Count for Washington state, approximately 4,100 youth are homeless, 2,000 of whom are unaccompanied.

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

The Washington State Department of Commerce and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction recently awarded a total of nearly $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.

“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 state legislature passed Third Substitute House Bill 1682 in 2016. The bill established the Homeless Student Stability Program and authorized 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.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, and was one of the 3SHB 1682’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 grants also will 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.

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 $2,085,249.  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 Consortia, 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


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 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 County), $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


Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, (206) 256-6106

Nathan Olson, OSPI Director of Communications, 360-725-6015

Share this Post