A new partnership between the city of Seattle, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Housing Authority aims to raise academic achievement by addressing students’ housing problems.
Families at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School who are homeless or lack stable housing will be the first to get assistance this year from a new effort aimed at increasing academic success for students by providing them a reliable place to live.
The Home from School pilot program, a partnership of the city of Seattle, Seattle Housing Authority and Seattle Public Schools, will start with families at Bailey Gatzert and may expand to other schools, Mayor Ed Murray announced Wednesday. Nearly a fifth of all students at the Central District school experience some form of homelessness.
The families in the pilot program will get help with finding housing, getting leases and moving. The program will work to keep students at the school, which had a turnover rate of 31 percent last year.
The city is spending $200,000 on the pilot.
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“For a city and state as wealthy and successful as Seattle and Washington, we cannot accept the reality that thousands of school-aged kids are homeless,” Murray said in a prepared statement. “Through this partnership, we can work to ensure students and their families have a place to call home and an opportunity to succeed.”
More than 6,000 Seattle students — about 12 percent of the school district — are in low-income housing provided by the housing authority, according to the district. The number of homeless students in the city has risen dramatically in the past years, Superintendent Larry Nyland said in a statement.
In the 2014-15 school year, the district had nearly 3,000 homeless students, including those living with their families in shelters, or doubled-up with relatives or friends. That’s more than double the number in the 2007-2008 school year.
“Ensuring uninterrupted educational opportunities for our students is a priority and foundational to their academic success,” Nyland said.
Other school districts around the state, including those in Tacoma and Vancouver, have partnered with housing authorities to help families.
In Tacoma, a housing-assistance program at McCarver Elementary is credited with lowering turnover and raising reading scores. The results prompted the district and housing authority to expand the program this year to other elementary schools.,
In addition to receiving rental assistance, families in the Tacoma program are asked to keep their children at McCarver and invest in their own education and employment prospects.
Across the state, more than 35,000 students were counted as homeless last year.
Also Wednesday, a group of Seattle philanthropic organizations announced they will provide nearly $1.9 million to an effort called Schoolhouse Washington to help homeless students. Money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Campion Foundation and Paul G. Allen Foundation will go toward funding and advocating for services that help homeless students, their families and schools.
Building Changes and Columbia Legal Services will lead Schoolhouse Washington’s work.