Housing help on its way for homeless elementary students and their families

Written by on September 1, 2016 in Seattle Housing Authority, Yesler Terrace - No comments

By Kristin O’Donnell

SHA resident

About one in five students who attends Bailey Gatzert Elementary School is homeless or without stable housing. The Seattle Housing Authority will help launch a new program this fall aimed at providing shelter for these students and their families.

About one in five students who attends Bailey Gatzert Elementary School is homeless or without stable housing. The Seattle Housing Authority will help launch a new program this fall aimed at providing shelter for these students and their families.

Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Board of Commissioners voted on Aug. 15 to move forward with the new Home from School (HFS) pilot project designed to help shelter some of Bailey Gatzert Elementary School’s homeless students.

The HFS project involves SHA, Seattle Public Schools, City of Seattle, and a local service provider to offer public housing or vouchers to homeless families who are enrolled at the School.

HFS will help families find permanent accommodations in the School’s attendance area, which extends from roughly I-5 to 20th Avenue, between Cherry and Dearborn Streets.

An Aug. 10 presentation to the Yesler Terrace Community Council by SHA Executive Director Andrew Lofton generated strong approval. Through an interpreter, council members said they felt fortunate to have homes and believe it necessary for these children to have a roof over their heads, too.
At Bailey Gatzert more than 40 percent of students are English Language Learners, and more than 90 percent qualify for Free and Reduced Priced Lunches. Around one in five students are homeless or unstably housed. In 2015, 31 percent of the students who began the school year at Bailey Gatzert were no longer enrolled there at the end of the year.

The School’s student achievement ratings have improved significantly in recent years, but are still considerably below district averages. The School does provide extra support to students and families through an on-site health clinic, a full-time family support worker and a partnership with Seattle University’s Center for Community Engagement, which offers tutoring and after-school and extended school year opportunities.

These support services help students overcome the barriers to learning that are related to poverty. Through this pilot program that provides stable housing, organizers say the ability to stay in one school should help stabilize the school and lift test scores even more.

Initially, support in locating affordable housing in the School’s attendance area will be offered to homeless families whose children enroll in Bailey Gatzert at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. SHA estimates that 35 to 40 families will be eligible.

A case manager will work with the families and housing providers in the area to locate permanent housing, and case management will continue for three to six months after families are housed. Getting placed in a home will not happen immediately—although these families will have priority for housing vouchers, some homeless families have issues in addition to affordability that may complicate finding a place to rent. Additionally, vacancies are rare in the near-downtown neighborhood, Yesler waiting lists are closed and relocated Yesler residents still have first priority to return to the redeveloped community.

If public housing units aren’t available, families will be given vouchers that can be used with private and nonprofit housing.

If the first phase of the project is successful, more families will be considered. Tacoma’s Housing Authority and School District are operating a similar program in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That program, now in its fifth year, requires substantial parent involvement, provides intensive social services to support that involvement and has shown positive results.

For families with children enrolled at Bailey Gatzert Elementary, please contact Keith Ervin who is the Family Support Worker at the school, 206-252-2836.

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