On a recent day in Tacoma, representatives from four Washington state housing authorities and one from Oregon gathered around a table at a favorite local pizza place. After pleasantries and determining whose turn it was to pay and take notes, the group dug into a discussion about what a full-day convening of all of their partners—a cross-sector coalition of professionals working jointly to improve outcomes for children from low-income families—could look like. Over the next four hours, the King County, Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver Housing Authorities, as well as Home Forward, Portland’s housing authority, learned from one another, shared best practices, and asked for advice from their peers. “It’s a pretty amazing thing,” Jan Wichert, director of employee and resident services at Vancouver Housing Authority (VHA) said. “It surprised me that we were all so much in the same spot—that the things that were difficult for me were hard for them as well. It’s been a wonderful discovery how much effort the other housing authorities are willing to put into this work. And that it’s not any one of us that’s more enthusiastic about working together, that’s really all of us, and we’re all drawing good stuff from that, which is great.”
As familiar and obvious as the Pacific Northwest Housing & Education Innovation Team seems now, it wasn’t always the case that intersecting housing and education in order to improve educational outcomes for low-income children was a logical undertaking. While individual evaluations of some of these five sites have taken place, broader national research in this area is still sparse. To help share some of the ground-breaking work happening around housing and education intersections, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities’ Housing Is Initiative conducted 24 interviews with housing authorities and their partners like school district staff, principals, city council members, superintendents, and nonprofit organizations. This report uses text and video to illustrate the importance of cross-sector work, the elements of successful partnerships, and what can be achieved with regional collaboration.