While research on the intersection of housing and education needs to increase, the concept of why such work is critical has become more and more accepted across fields. For the housing authorities in the Pacific Northwest and their partners, this has made a difference. “When Tacoma Housing Authority started its education project about seven years ago, we did not have too many templates. And we had to really make it up as we go, and spent a lot of time explaining why a housing authority was interested in education,” Mirra said. “And we don’t have to spend that time now, because we feel there are a growing number of other housing authorities and school districts who understand the value of their partnerships. So, we feel like we have a lot of company.” Mirra believes this shift has happened for several reasons, including national convenings to bring partners together, but mostly because people are simply realizing that, in fact, housers and educators do have a lot to work on together.
Communities looking to engage in this critical work to improve educational and life outcomes for low-income children and families should engage in partnerships to be more effective and more efficient with their efforts. Determining joint goals with partners and then utilizing tools like data sharing and establishing metrics are a must; having consistent and open communication as well as following through with intents is also essential. After that is sustaining that work by nurturing your partnership and institutionalizing the work across every level of an organization, from front-line service workers to executive directors.
Every community has its own needs and unique set of challenges, but there are general best practices that are applicable to any current or potential partnership looking to engage in this work.
Jan Wichert of VHA encourages communities to maintain efforts despite the challenges: “Just keep at it, it works. I think that the thing that we have in common with educators, the thing that we all want, is for the lives of the folks we serve to improve. And we see very clearly that we can do that better together. And not together like we’re partners, together like our systems work together. That’s how we’ll do this better. And that’s really important, and that makes it worth the hard work.”