The state of Washington Department of Commerce awarded a $500,000 Homeless Student Stability Program (HSSP) grant to three Clark County school districts and Council for the Homeless. Battle Ground, Evergreen and Vancouver public school systems and Council for the Homeless submitted a collaborative proposal. Overall, the Department of Commerce awarded $1 million in HSSP grants in the state. The grants are the outcome of HB-1682, the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Gap Act, which was supported by several legislators including Representative Sharon Wylie from Clark County’s 49th legislative district.

HSSP will fund one full-time staff person each in the Vancouver and Evergreen districts and one half-time staff person for the Battle Ground district. The goal of the new “housing navigators” will be to help stabilize homeless students and their families allowing students to participate fully in school and achieve their highest potential. Grant funds also will provide financial resources to help families find safe, decent and affordable housing. The project begins Sept. 1, 2016, and ends June 30, 2017.

Evergreen Public Schools will act as project lead and will manage the required financial and program reports. Council for the Homeless will administer funding for staffing, training and operations, as well as rental assistance for families and flexible funding to address other barriers to securing and retaining housing such as application fees and court and legal fees.

In Vancouver Public Schools, the new housing navigator will serve families at Washington Elementary School, Discovery Middle School and Hudson’s Bay High School. The housing navigator will work closely with Family-Community Resource Center coordinators and with the VPS Project HOPE liaison. In the past year, the number of homeless children attending school in Vancouver has increased 26 percent.

“Safe, stable housing is a basic need and a critical foundation for learning,” said Tamara Shoup, VPS director of family engagement and FCRCs. “By partnering with school districts across the county and Council for the Homeless, we will create a strong network of support for our highly mobile children and families.”