Law students at the University of Washington are working with lawmakers to confront issues within the state’s homeless population.
Two bills would provide support to homeless students and also help schools better identify students who are homeless.
The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction says more than 27,000 homeless students have been identified in Washington schools. Columbia Legal Services estimates an additional 10,000 homeless students in the schools haven’t been identified.
Chris Jordan is part of the student group, called the UW Law Children and Youth Legislative Advocacy Clinic, which is helping to draft legislation.
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Homelessness is “a really personal issue that makes it tough to identify kids or for kids to identify themselves,” Jordan said.
Senate Bill 6074, the Homeless Children Education Act, could help. The bill, which passed out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education on Monday, calls for research to identify the characteristics of youth-homeless populations, and for voluntary training for teachers.
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, is prime sponsor. He said the bill would detail the extent of the problem in Washington schools. “When we get the data, we can get schools and districts to provide more attention and services,” he said.
Additionally, two companion measures — Senate Bill 6365 and House Bill 2763 — would create a two-year pilot program to provide housing for homeless students and their families. The bill would allocate $300,000 for districts to provide assistance with rent, utilities and other costs.
It’s modeled after a housing project at Tacoma’s McCarver Elementary School.
More than two years ago, the school partnered with the Tacoma Housing Authority to provide rental assistance for 42 homeless families with children at the school. Families are enrolled for five years, and the amount of assistance they receive decreases by 20 percent each year.
The Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Housing and Insurance held a hearing for the bill on Tuesday. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education will hold a hearing on Thursday.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, is sponsoring Senate Bill 6338, which would require the state Department of Commerce to give preference to projects between local school districts and housing authorities, such as the McCarver program.
Ashley Stewart: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ashannstew.