Words by Tess Becker
One of the biggest issues in finding assistance in dealing with poverty is accessibility to resources. Most US states require that people need to have already slept on the street to qualify for housing assistance.
Washington state is working on redefining that so that more people will have access to programs that can help them afford the cost of living. One of the main ways the state is doing this is through the Homeless Student Stability Program.
The state was experiencing a growing number of homeless youth and wanted to do something, so state legislators passed the bill in 2016 that freed up money to enable schools to identify more students as homeless and get them into stable housing. This overrode the federal definition of homelessness.
“HSSP encourages school districts and nonprofit partners to develop effective strategies that directly address the academic and housing needs of students experiencing homelessness,” the bill says. “It was one of the first programs in the nation to provide comprehensive support for students experiencing homelessness through a statewide competitive grant program.”
The program continues today, and in 2021 awarded HSSP grants to 13 school districts that served 7,761 students experiencing homelessness. This program makes aid available for people even at a threat of homelessness, something which basically no other program in the US can boast.
“We do nothing to prevent the ‘hidden homeless,’” said Darla Bardine, executive director of the National Network for Youth, a nonprofit that works to end youth homelessness. “You have to sleep on the street for 14 days — you have to put yourself in danger for two weeks — before you’re eligible.”
“That’s actually mandating long-term suffering before you extend a helping hand.”
The program is still looking into expanding funding so if you’re curious, check it out!