Giving Compass' Take:

• Tacoma Public Schools and Tacoma Housing Authority entered a partnership in 2011 that provides low-income families with housing services so their children can stay in the same schools. 

• How can donors help support school and housing partnerships? 

• Read the Giving Compass Housing and Homelessness guide for donors. 

In 2011, the Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) in Washington and the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) formed a partnership with a simple goal in mind — reduce high student mobility by providing low-income families with housing assistance so they could keep their children in the same school.

McCarver Elementary, located in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood, was the site for the innovative program. The idea was to “take one crisis piece away from the families in order to stabilize attendance and have all the good that happens when a kid is in his seat every day,” Kendra Peischel, a program supervisor with THA, said in an interview.

Parents approved for the five-year housing vouchers were required to attend all parent-teacher conferences, make sure their children maintained high attendance, and participate in education-focused school events. A five-year evaluation showed turnover among the students in the program at 23.3%, well below the district’s average of more than 57% for elementary schools. The percentage of students in the program reading at grade level also increased from 35.8% to 68.8% over that time period.

The story of the McCarver project, now called the Elementary School Housing Assistance Program (ESHAP), has taken multiple turns since it started — the latest of which points to the difference between the way the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act defines student homelessness and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) more narrow criteria for deciding who gets priority for housing programs — typically those on the street or in a shelter.

With rates of student homelessness rising — and school districts in Los Angeles and San Francisco responding with programs such as securing parking lots, where families are sleeping in cars — it’s an issue Duffield and others have been trying to address through federal legislation.

Read the full article about school-homelessness programs by Linda Jacobson at Education Dive.