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Everett’s new plan to help district’s many homeless students

(Photo : NeONBRAND, Unsplash)

It may seem simple or obvious, but Everett’s school board has a new plan for the district’s many homeless students: Homes.

“We have a quite a crisis on our hands,” Ed Petersen with Housing Hope told Candy, Mike, and Todd on KIRO Radio. “There were 1,266 homeless students in the Everett Public Schools last year. This is a number that has grown over the last number of years. Given the challenge of affordable housing available in our community, and the distance between entry-level wages and the cost of housing, the problem is only going to go further.”

“Public schools are only effective when children are ready to learn,” he added, noting that students are certainly not ready to learn when they have no home and are dealing with insecurity in their personal lives.

One solution was unanimously approved by Everett’s school board recently: Housing for homeless students and their families. Housing Hope will manage the project. The organization is a 31-year-old non-profit that develops such housing, and Petersen is its chief strategic officer.

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The Everett Herald reports that the board has slated a surplus three-acre plot of land in the Port Gardner neighborhood for the student housing project. It was formerly used as the Jackson School. It will lease the land to Housing Hope for 75 years. The new building will offer housing for low and moderate income families. The earliest the project will be ready is 2022.

“There will be a combination of 34 or more housing units,” he said of the Everett project. “They will be 1, 2, and 3-bedroom.”

“It’s family housing,” he said. “Some of the units will be filled by students at the adjacent Sequoia High School … but there will be families, parents who have come out of homelessness, who have children who have gone through the trauma of homelessness.”

There will be property management staff on site, as well as social services staff.

It is a much-needed project, Petersen argues. While he points to 1,266 homeless students in the Everett district last year, that number was just 510 students in 2009-10, the Herald reports. Also, there were about 290 homeless students living in Everett and attending other school districts last year. In other words, the problem has been growing.

Everett is not alone. Renton has also experienced its own rise in homeless students. The most recently-reported accounts indicate there are more than 500 homeless students in Renton.

In fact, homeless student numbers in Washington state are at an all-time high.

According to April 2018 data released by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, 40,934 students were counted as homeless during the 2016-17 school year. That’s a 3.2 percent spike over the previous year’s count, and the ninth year in a row that the homeless student numbers have grown. About one in every 25 K-12 students is experiencing homelessness — roughly one student in each classroom, OSPI notes.

This means that the state is currently experiencing the highest number of students without a home, living in hotels, cars, with friends, or on the street.

Listen to the Candy, Mike and Todd Show weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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