Three school districts and one agency in Clark County will share a $500,000 state grant to help homeless students and their families find and retain safe, affordable housing.
That’s a struggle for homeless families. The county’s number of students counted as homeless continues to grow. During the 2014-15 school year, there were 2,313 homeless students in Clark County. In Vancouver Public Schools alone, the number of homeless students increased 26 percent during the 2015-16 school year.
The Battle Ground, Evergreen and Vancouver school districts and Council for the Homeless submitted the grant proposal together. The Homeless Student Stability Program grant is funded by the State Department of Commerce.
A total of $1 million in grants was awarded throughout the state. The grants are the outcome of House Bill 1682, the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act. The bill was sponsored by 27 legislators including state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver.
The grant will pay for a new position, called a housing navigator, to help secure stable housing for homeless students and their families. The Evergreen and Vancouver districts each will hire one full-time housing navigator. Battle Ground Public Schools, which has about half as many students as the two larger districts, will hire one half-time housing navigator.
Grant funds also will help families find safe, decent and affordable housing. The project begins Sept. 1 and ends June 30.
The school districts will work with the Council for the Homeless to “create a strong network of support for our highly mobile children and families,” said Tamara Shoup, who oversees the Vancouver district’s school-based Family-Community Resource Centers. “Safe, stable housing is a basic need and a critical foundation for learning.”
Evergreen Public Schools will act as the project lead on the grant and will manage the required financial and program reports.
The Council for the Homeless will administer funding for staffing, training and operations. The organization also will administer rental assistance for families, and provide flexible funding to remove other financial barriers, such as application fees and court and legal fees, to pave the way for families to secure and retain housing.