In Tacoma, Washington, and other U.S. cities, housing departments are collaborating with school districts to give low-income and homeless students a leg up.
Barden had heard about a Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) initiative, the McCarver Elementary School Housing Assistance Program, that provides rental assistance to homeless families with children enrolled in kindergarten, first, or second grade at the school. Barden’s daughters were in kindergarten and second grade, so she signed up. (Her son was an infant at the time.)
Barden chose her apartment and began paying most of the rent. She currently pays 20 percent of the $1,200 due each month, and for the next three years she’ll add an additional 20 percent each year. To continue receiving the assistance, she’ll need to keep her children enrolled at McCarver for the duration. She must also participate actively in her kids’ education, such as by attending PTA meetings and reading to them, and invest in her own education and job training. A caseworker works with Barden to keep things on track.
Barden says her older daughter loves the school, and her younger daughter is getting the speech therapy and writing help she needs. Barden recently received her high school diploma and is now looking to study to become a nurse. “The program is helping me achieve my goals,” she says. “If it didn’t exist, I’d probably still be living with my mom and wouldn’t have gotten my diploma.”