Back to top

What a Houser Needs to Hear

For many housers, the main goal is to simply house people. KCHA’s Norman agrees a houser should first ensure housing is safe and habitable, but, he says, “That is by no means the end goal of what we are doing.” From there, a housing authority can help initiate a relationship with a school system by making a case with its resources: “We had housing dollars to offer. We weren’t an organization coming to the school district, asking the school district to do something for free, but we had a notable resource to contribute, and that got their attention.”

Courtney Cameron
Strategic Advisor for Education
Seattle Housing Authority

Kathlyn Paananen
Education and Housing Manager
Seattle Public Schools

The philosophy going into these partnerships, said Lofton, has to stem from the notion that “the best chance that people have to succeed is to eliminate barriers and to provide them the tools to be successful.” Housing may be a necessary component of that aim, but it’s not enough, he said. “The path out of poverty is a difficult one at best, and we have consistently been challenged with that. I firmly believe that one of the ways that’s out of that situation for people is education, a good education, and our students who live in our housing and go to school are behind and consequently have a more difficult job, more difficult challenge, in being successful adults and successful family members when they turn adults. To change that trajectory is worth an investment of our time and our resources now, and I think it has proven that it is a good investment and pays off.” In other words, organizations can use the stability of housing as a foundation to improve other outcomes. Or, as KCHA’s Norman says, “You have to have stable housing for school success. It’s a necessary but not sufficient piece of the puzzle.” In order to create a generation of children growing up in poor households who can be upwardly mobile, Norman agrees with Lofton about the crucial need to invest: “It starts with understanding that it is absolutely essential that there be coordination between housing and schools, and place-making in the community.”