Next week, we’re heading south.

A team of Seattle Times journalists — including photographer Ellen Banner, lead video journalist Lauren Frohne and me (hi, I’m Education Lab reporter Neal Morton) — will travel to Geelong, an Australian city about an hour outside of Melbourne.

There, we hope to learn whether South King County can successfully import a program from Geelong (pronounced Jeh-long) that aims to end youth homelessness by preventing it from ever happening in the first place.

Here’s what we’ve learned about reporting on this topic at home:

  • In King County alone, nearly 9,900 students lived without stable housing last year.
  • More than 4 in 5 homeless students in King County are students of color.
  • And whether a student sleeps on a friend’s couch or outside, those that experience homelessness have much lower academic performance than their housed peers.

Since 2013, the Geelong Project has surveyed all students at three pilot schools to gauge their risk of entering the homeless system or dropping out of school before 12th grade. A team of case managers then connects students at greater risk with public and nonprofit agencies that provide rental assistance, mentorship, counseling and other services to keep them and their families housed, and out of streets, tents and shelters.

The program captured global attention for its track record. And now, school districts in South King County, including Renton and Tukwila, may soon adopt the Australian model.

But before we head Down Under, what questions do you have about the Geelong project?

“How do they support Aboriginal youth with the program?”

“Are the resources available to provide needed rental assistance in Seattle now?”

“What does the follow up and ongoing support process look like after students (and) families are referred for services?”

Those are just a few questions we fielded from readers on social media, and we hope to receive many more to drive our reporting in Geelong. What do you think we should ask students and families there? Do you have any concerns about trying to copy-and-paste a program in a fairly homogeneous city to diverse South King County?


Statewide, more than 40,000 students lived without stable housing during the 2017-18 school year. That’s about 3.5% of the total K-12 enrollment in Washington. While Renton closely mirrors that average at 3.7%, the rate of student homelessness is almost three times higher in Tukwila. Will that risk the locally dubbed Upstream Project’s chance of success there? Would a different school district offer a better site for testing the Geelong model?

Last year, an evaluation of the participating schools in Australia found the number of youth entering the homeless system fell by 40%, and the number of dropouts decreased by 20%.

Those results spurred the program’s expansion to four additional schools in Geelong this year. And in 2017, the project went global when a pilot launched at four schools in Ontario, Canada.

Now, as Minneapolis and San Mateo, California, prepare for the first U.S. pilots of the program, should Renton and Tukwila join the effort? Is there anything you want to know about these sites?

We welcome any and all questions about the Geelong Project and plan to report some answers during our trip to Australia. We’ll send dispatches and updates if you provide your email address in the submission form above, or if you’d prefer to reach out directly, please send a message to