Commerce awards $1.7 million to help homeless students and families

Five projects will partner with K-12 schools on programs and services for homeless students and families across Washington state

The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $1,730,000 in competitive grants from the state’s Homeless Students Stability Program to five projects that will provide services aimed at helping students and families experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied students, in Washington’s K-12 public school system.

“Having safe, appropriate, stable housing is the most basic foundation for helping students and families succeed,” said Dr. Lisa Brown, Commerce director. “Every family’s situation and needs are different. These investments strengthen communities by supporting locally driven approaches and collaboration throughout the housing and education system to meet students and families where they are.”

These projects will develop and expand collaborative strategies between housing and education partners in the community, with goals to promote stability in housing and education, and evidence-based strategies for addressing racial inequities. The following were selected for funding from 27 applicants requesting a total of more than $8.2 million:

Council for the Homeless (Vancouver, Clark County): $462,222 for programs serving the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts, including housing navigators that will provide families flexible funding based on their self-identified needs, such as move-in cost assistance (for example, rental application or other fees, security deposits or first and last month’s rent) and motel vouchers as bridge shelter, should no other options be available.

Opportunity Council (Bellingham, Whatcom County): $265,081 to expand supports, including case managers located in schools and with the ability to travel throughout the county in order to meet families in convenient locations, and a housing specialist to engage them in diversion and problem-solving and provide ongoing, client-centered case management to those at risk of homelessness who do not have access to other programs for help obtaining permanent housing. Funding will also allow Northwest Youth Services to provide more help, including building high-quality case management relationships with youth to identify secure, safe and stable housing, assistance with developing goals and action plans, referrals and in-person connections to community resources.

The REACH Center (Tacoma, Pierce County): $340,978 to expand and enhance its current ACT program to assist students and families experiencing homelessness. The ACT program is a member of the statewide Anchor Communities Initiative core team and continues to build strong collaboration with all youth service providers in Pierce County. Current work includes focus on Pierce County high schools, in particular, schools with larger disconnection rates, lack of resources and schools that cater to youth who are credit deficient. Program expansion includes an additional full-time peer outreach specialist for youth ages 13 to 21 enrolled in the rural Bethel and Sumner school districts.

Wellspring Family Services (Seattle, King County): $271,496 to lead a partnership with Africatown and operate in 10 schools, five each in Renton and South Seattle. The project also leverages opportunities through Wellspring’s existing “Welcome Home” Program, which radically reduces barriers, such as cumbersome assessment processes that are known to be frustrating for participants. The full team will consist of four housing stability specialists – two funded by Starbucks philanthropy – and one intern, working in tight coordination with public school counselors.

Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (Yakima, Yakima County): $426,223 will fund a program serving Educational School District 105: Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) and Rod’s House. After receiving referrals from school homeless liaisons, YNHS and Rod’s House homeless student program specialists will engage students and families in discussions to explore practical solutions to resolve their homelessness quickly and safely, which may include flexible funds, rental assistance, emergency hotel/motel vouchers and host homes. YNHS has an existing memorandum of understanding with Opportunities Industrialization Center of Washington to provide employment and training services for youth.

All of these grant awards are conditional upon execution of final project agreements with the Department of Commerce. The state’s Homeless Student Stability Program was established in 2016 under the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act, which amended state law related to improving educational outcomes for homeless students through increased identification services, in-school supports and housing stability.

The projects funded will be implemented in partnership with school liaisons under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Commerce is also working with the non-profit Building Changes on program development and evaluation.

Visit the Homeless Student Stability Program webpage to learn more.

- Washington State Department of Commerce