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The AHEAD Act would provide funding for housing authorities and school districts to work together to tackle child and family homelessness 

In a conversation with local housing, education, and community stakeholders, Senator Murray discussed how successful local initiatives to address youth homelessness, housing insecurity, and education are reflected in the bill

KUOW: Child homelessness has doubled in Washington state in the last decade – MORE HERE

(Washington, D.C.)  – This morning, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sat down with Seattle housing, education, and community leaders to discuss some of the successful efforts by local stakeholders to support students experiencing homelessness, and to provide families and young people facing homelessness and housing insecurity with better educational opportunities. During the discussion, Senator Murray previewed her Affordable Housing for Educational Achievement Demonstration (AHEAD) Act, legislation she plans to introduce in the coming days that will create a federal grant program to help encourage housing authorities and school districts to work together to address child and family homelessness.

“I think everyone knows homelessness is a problem, and who it is impacting a lot is our young people. And we are seeing some exciting things happen in this region when we break down barriers and silos between agencies and have people work together – I’m talking about education, and social services, and housing, and have those people work together to make sure we’re doing the right thing for those young kids today,” Senator Murray said. “…So, I’m going to be introducing legislation next week based on what all of you have been doing out here that I’ve seen as so successful, it’s called the AHEAD Act… and it is having the federal government be a partner in these collaboration efforts by providing grants and opportunities to these agencies that work together to find unique solutions in their communities.”

During the discussion, Senator Murray heard from numerous local stakeholders, including Rachael Steward, the community service administrator of the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA), who outlined SHA’s collaborations with education and community partners, and how those relationships have helped to improve education outcomes and opportunities for low income youth and families. Dede Fauntleroy, Principal of Northgate Elementary School, spoke to the challenges that homelessness creates for students and the approaches Northgate has used to address these challenges. The AHEAD Act incorporates many of the strategies and practices discussed by Steward, Fauntleroy, and the other roundtable participants in an effort to promote collaboration and empower local officials, advocates, and educators.

“The shelter that I stayed at was in the U District and my high school was in West Seattle, so I had to every day get up at five AM… didn’t get much sleep, go out and take a metro bus to school every morning. The shelter staff would just give me a bus ticket and send me on my way. It was really stressful for me because that was a two hour bus trip and its in the wee hours of the morning and its dark, downtown as a sixteen year old in the dark not really the safest thing,” said Alyssa Downing, a local resident who experienced homelessness as a teen and now works for the Mockingbird Society, an organization that works to combat youth homelessness. “I was stressed out most of the time and it really had an impact on my grades. I was falling asleep in class because I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep at night. Thankfully I didn’t have to endure that for more than a month, but if I had, I don’t know what I would’ve done, I probably would have had to drop out. This isn’t a unique experience. We get people at the Mockingbird Society who have experiences really similar to mine.”

According to a report from Schoolhouse Washington, there are currently more than 40,000 students facing homeless in Washington state and students dealing with housing insecurity face unique challenges that have been shown to negatively affect academic outcomes. As a former educator and the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, Senator Murray has consistently worked to promote opportunity for all students, introducing an earlier version of the AHEAD Act in 2017 and spearheading efforts to secure millions of dollars in federal funding towards combatting youth homelessness in Washington state.

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