Earlier this month, legislators in Olympia approved a plan to direct state dollars toward homeless student services via a competitive grant program. But will they fund that funding?
That’s in the hands of the budget negotiators who are currently trying to hash out a compromised spending plan between the Democrat-dominated House and the Republican-dominated Senate. The bill, HB-1682, passed the House and Senate earlier this month, and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
But there’s still the question of how, and how much, to pay for it. The House’s budget has proposed $4 million. The Senate’s budget has zilch.
This bill is “a huge deal,” says Hillary Madsen of Columbia Legal Services, which lobbied for the bill. “Nationally, Washington is already setting a trend of collaborations between housing providers and schools in order to create housing opportunities for homeless students and their families.
“Now, by creating at the state level state funding, we are going to be the first in the nation to do this at the state level. We’re already setting the trend and now we’re going even farther.”
If the funding comes through, that is.
That trend toward supporting homeless students has been pushed not only by established groups like Columbia Legal, but also by middle schoolers. Jamal was one of the “Youth Ambassadors” who testified to legislators in person in support of the bill.
“Homeless instability statistics say that homeless instability can really hurt the homeless,” Jamal told the Senate’s Early Learning K-12 Education Committee. “Even though that kind of doesn’t make sense, but it’s what they say,” he added.
“I was a victim of homeless instability. This really affected my education because it was very distracting in my place, not allowing me to study. But I still had a home: I’ve only been through half of what the homeless people have been through.”
Fellow Youth Ambassador Joaquin also supports the bill. “Homeless is obviously terrible,” he tells Seattle Weekly. “I’m sure everyone knows that. But we want to help stop it by having the kids possibly go to college, so they can afford to get a good job and money so that way they can buy what they need, which includes food, shelter and water.”
Jamal says that testifying before the Senate committee was “very, very nerve-racking and cool at the same time.” He supports the bill to fund homeless student services, he says, “because it…shows that you should care about the homeless. Just ‘cause they don’t have a job or don’t have a house doesn’t mean that they should feel excluded or feel uncomfortable.”
“Because they’re humans. We’re all humans.”