Jan 06

More help on the way for Tukwila students who are unstably housed

students in classroom

Building Changes has awarded a Schoolhouse Washington grant to the Tukwila School District to strengthen its ongoing efforts at helping students who are homeless or precariously housed to enroll in school, complete their high school education and continue on to higher education.

A partnership of Building Changes and Columbia Legal Services, Schoolhouse Washington supports projects across our state that are designed to improve housing stability and advance educational success for students experiencing homelessness.

While the Tukwila School District already is considered a leader and innovator in implementing best practices aimed at helping students who are unstably housed, its reach falls shy of existing needs. The 18-month grant will increase staff capacity and provide training and information to help prevent students from becoming homeless and facilitate entry into housing for those already homeless. The district anticipates serving a minimum of 115 K-12 students and their families during the remainder of this academic year and into 2017-18.

In 2014-15, the Tukwila district enrolled 2,950 students in its five schools. Of those, 338 (11%) were identified as homeless – compared to 3 percent statewide and an average of 6 percent among similarly sized school districts.

Jonathan Houston, who oversees the district’s programming for students experiencing homelessness, suspects even more students are unstably housed than the district currently is counting. He anticipates this project will give the district the ability to identify additional students now slipping through the cracks – but in need of services. He said the project also should help the district overcome procedural and infrastructure deficiencies that can delay students’ access to services.

Tukwila is an exceptionally diverse district – in October 2015, nearly 90 percent of students self-identified as a race or ethnicity other than White. The district therefore is uniquely positioned to impact the racial and ethnic disproportionality that exists in student homelessness, as well as the academic achievement gap. When students are unstably housed, their educational achievement profoundly suffers. In 2012-13, only 37 percent of homeless students statewide were considered proficient in math, compared to 64 percent among their peers who were stably housed.

The Building Changes grant is structured to leverage recent King County investments in homeless prevention for families and youth. It also aims to incubate a cross-sector approach for addressing homelessness by bringing together the education, homeless and housing systems to work for solutions that improve outcomes for students who are homeless or precariously housed.