What does back to school mean for families experiencing housing instability/homelessness versus families with stable housing? What is currently being done in communities to support families and school-age children? What needs to be done?
These are the questions that inspired the focus for this month’s Community Meeting. Guest presenters Paulette Mendes and Doris Beechman, Family Partners at Project Hope, shared about their work with Project Hope’s No Child Goes Homeless program.
What is happening now?
There has been a lot of success! Project Hope has housed more than 100 families since 2012 through their No Child Goes Homeless program, and was recently expanded to include an additional three schools. Both families experiencing homelessness and families with unstable housing situations may be able to work with a Family Partner through the program.
Collaboration & Partnerships:
- Partnerships with six schools in the community
- The Boston Housing Authority, some set-aside units
- Collaboration with large property managers
There have been a lot of challenges that families are facing as well:
- The short-term subsidy program was identified as a major contributor to long-term housing instability and families again experiencing homelessness after finding housing. (HomeBASE can provide up to $8,000, recently changed to $10,000, for 12 months to families eligible for or living in Emergency Assistance shelter).
- Despite the push that housing workers are feeling to use HomeBASE, it is “not going far.” First, last, security deposit and a brokers fee can use up a family’s HomeBASE assistance before they make a rent payment, and are left with a market rate rent bill.
In addition to housing instability, there are some direct effects on school-aged children:
Effects on Children:
Children in families struggling to maintain stable housing, including some with HomeBASE, are bearing a load and making interventions – many with lasting effects. No child should have to take on that burden, especially as it can interfere with their school and emotional well-being in so many ways.
- For example, seeing more than one family where high-school children have dropped out of school to work to help pay rent – including households with HomeBASE.
- Children take on stress, especially where parents may not speak English or be adept with technology and children help their parents with housing search, etc.
Homelessness and housing instability can seriously affect a child’s education:
- A striking number of housing-unstable children cannot read at a basic level. This is an injustice for even one child, but is far too common and especially for kids whose first language is not English.
- A lot of absences/not making it on time – many people in the room confirmed this for the families they work with (want to know more about how related housing instability and missed school are? Check it out here).
- Transportation can be a major contributor – BPS only supplies T pass for families 2+ miles away, children close to 2 miles away who do not have the resources for transportation struggle to get to school, especially in the winter.
- Children with stressful housing situations are being labeled with “behavioral problems” and in turn being forced to miss class.
While behavioral problems and transportation issues aren’t always thought of as connected to families’ housing situation, we heard from the community how intertwined these challenges often are with housing instability.
What happens next?
Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George will be holding 14 education-based Town Halls across Boston’s neighborhoods. This is an opportunity to weigh in on all of the issues that come with housing instability that are affecting children’s education.
Continuing and building on opportunities for prevention and stabilization work to be done from the schools in the communities where families have relationships and access to people working with the entire family.
Taking a second look at HomeBASE and how it affects families and children: if you encounter families who have taken HomeBASE and continue to experience housing instability, please CONTACT US and share that story and connect us to the family if possible. Email Nilaya at firstname.lastname@example.org.
School can and should step up to support children who may not be literate; meet the need for ESOL courses.
Investment in after-school programs to support families and children.