Program Profile: Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) McCarver Special Housing Program

The problem of high school mobility is one that affects many students and districts across the nation, and McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington is no exception. Last school year, 120 percent of the students at McCarver Elementary changed to a different school primarily because of the lack of affordable housing for their families in the attendance area. Increased school mobility hampers the academic and social achievement of students who are very low income. THA’S McCarver Special Housing Program was designed to address this problem.

THA used housing vouchers to stabilize 49 families with 76 children who attended McCarver and were experiencing homelessness or whose families were at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. Two THA case managers were located in an office at the school where they could easily meet with parents, students, teachers, and school staff on a daily basis. They helped identify needs and set goals, counseled parents and students, and connected them to community resources and services. Case managers also helped ensure that parents met their obligations and supported their children’s educational efforts.

The program staff collaborated with a variety of service providers to ensure a comprehensive approach to meet each family’s unique needs.The additional support and resources provided to families included food, clothing, toys, utility subsidies, furniture and other household items, monthly group parenting classes, educational opportunities for parents such as earning a GED, diplomas, or professional certificates, and employment assistance.

In this year’s evaluation of the program, it was reported that half of the families who received housing vouchers now live in the attendance area and all others plan to move into the area soon. Among participants there have been fewer suspensions, an increase in attendance, increased parent engagement, and signs of both academic and behavioral progress for students.By providing for the housing needs of families using THA vouchers, families and students are now able to focus on finding employment and improving educational outcomes in a safe, stable home environment. 

Read the full evaluation of THA’s McCarver Special Housing Program

More on school and family stability

The Seimer Institute for Family Stability, a nationwide effort through United Ways in 18 locations across the country, works specifically to address housing stability needs to improve student outcomes and decrease school mobility. Learn more about their work and model from the USICH blog post from Rob Podlogar of the Seimer Institute.