The City of Seattle, the Seattle Housing Authority, and Seattle Public Schools have partnered to launch a pilot program at 14th and Yesler’s Bailey Gatzert Elementary School that aims to help families at the school find housing. The program can hopefully grow to help students on the edge of homelessness and displacement across the city.
“All the stress is lifted off of them and teachers notice as well and that makes a big difference,” said Keith Ervin, family support worker at Bailey Gatzert, who helps families in crisis whether it’s getting them clothing, or now helping them find a place to live under the Home from School program.
When students are homeless and don’t know where they’re going to sleep or are worried about their parents who are out looking for shelter, Ervin said students aren’t able to focus on their work.
Ervin has been working with shelters in the area and assessing what the families there need to get them housed and keep the kids at Bailey Gatzert. So far, two families have found new housing in the school’s Central District area, and Ervin is working with others.
Not only is homelessness, high absenteeism and high student turnovers disruptive for the kids, it’s also disruptive for schools, Kerry Coughlin, SHA communications director, said.
“We very much care about the success for the school,” Coughlin said. To help make the families and the school successful, Coughlin said ongoing, regular housing is necessary. So SHA and the district selected Bailey Gatzert to see if they could create a program to stabilize families with kids .
Bailey Gatzert was chosen for the pilot because of its proximity to the Yesler Terrace area, which is undergoing massive redevelopment and new housing creation — much of it market rate. About 97% of students who live at Yesler Terrace attend school at Bailey Gatzert, Coughlin said. At half of Seattle public schools, 10% or more students live in SHA housing, according to SHA and the district’s partnership plan.
General operating expenses and the contract with service provider Wellspring Family Services for the pilot is estimated to cost around $300,000, but that doesn’t include the cost to subsidize the families’ housing.
The process for getting families housed begins with the school identifying families to Wellspring, which begins the intake process and determines their needs and begins the SHA applications.
The search for housing begins, which is dependent on landlords in the school’s catchment area, Ervin said those involved are working as quickly as possible to find housing.
“We need private landlords to step up to make this work,” Coughlin said.
Landlords with housing available have to be willing to work with SHA to provide subsidized housing to the families.
“We subsidize a good portion of the rent and that gives stable rental income to the landlord plus the families are being well-supported,” Coughlin said.
After families are housed, Ervin and Wellspring also provide ongoing services or connect them to services to help them be successful.
Coughlin said SHA has an evaluation plan that is centered around attendance to determine whether the program is successful at Bailey Gatzert. If it is, it could be rolled out to other schools.
While there is a correlation between between attendance and academic achievement, that takes longer to track and measure, she said. Then there’s the obviously measure of whether or not the family is able to stay and be successful in their housing.
No other schools have been identified yet for a potential expansion of the program if the pilot for 2016-17 is determined to be successful, but Coughlin said if it moves forward, SHA will likely look at whether there’s likely to be housing in the area and the severity of the need.
“I just really hope that this program becomes really, really successful,” Ervin said. “I would like to see something like this happen all across the city.”