At TOGETHER!, children are much more than just their outcome. Applying a holistic outlook, TOGETHER! helps Thurston County students and families thrive by aiding in multi-faceted services that lead to student success. In addition to their Community Schools and Club House programs, TOGETHER!’s work also includes eviction prevention. Collaborating with the Help Us Move In Foundation (HUMI), TOGETHER! assists Tumwater and Yelm area families to find and maintain stable housing.
TOGETHER!’s work in eviction prevention stems from the organization’s Community Schools program, which assigns case managers to schools across Thurston County to help struggling students and families access resources for basic needs, physical and mental healthcare and family engagement.
In its sixth year of operating the Community Schools program in the Tumwater School District, TOGETHER! case managers noticed increasing financial barriers for students and families to access stable housing. In response to these barriers, TOGETHER! instituted a pilot program last year in the Tumwater School District to aid in eviction prevention. Meagan Darrow, the deputy director of TOGETHER! says that the organization was drawn to eviction prevention work, because stable housing can lead to greater student success and increased wellbeing for children and families.
“We’re finding a lot of people have come against hard times,” explains Darrow. “Like if someone in the household got hurt at work or someone had an illness, lost a job or had hours cut and need some financial support to stay stable. We know from research that a housed kid does better in all aspects of life. It’s a basic need to have stable housing. And we we’re seeing kids in unstable housing really have some difficulties in school, like regular attendance, because that stress a family’s going through to try and stay stably housed really created some stress for the kid.”
In the first year of the pilot program, TOGETHER! partnered with the City of Tumwater to address eviction prevention for families in the Tumwater School District. The City of Tumwater donated $25,000 to the cause and TOGETHER! doubled the city’s initial investment through community support from faith-based organizations, business, schools and individual contributions.
In the second year of TOGETHER!’s eviction prevention efforts, the organization has teamed up with the HUMI Foundation to assist families in not just the Tumwater School District, but now also the Yelm School District to find and maintain stable housing. The City of Tumwater remains a steadfast partner and has increased their contribution for Tumwater School District families.
The Help Us Move In Foundation has been supporting local families to seek and maintain stable housing for two decades. Founded in Thurston County by Burt Saver, the HUMI serves families not only in Thurston County, but across the United States. Originally operated by the First United Methodist Church in Olympia, HUMI became an independent nonprofit organization in 2015.
Funding 34 locations across the United States, HUMI utilizes a two-year matching grant system for use in rental assistance and eviction prevention efforts. HUMI awards grants through this matching system to encourage organizations to maintain funding after the grant cycle is completed. After five years of operation and an initial investment of $500,000, HUMI grants have generated over $2 million in funding for eviction prevention and stable housing causes.
“We are planting seeds so that they’ll have programs specifically for families with children and only for permanent housing and housing stability,” says Sarah Scherer, executive director of the Help Us Move In Foundation. “They can only spend this money on first and last month rental deposits or rental assistance for eviction prevention. The matching model we have works really well. We’ve been using this funding to engage communities to join the effort and to hopefully establish programs within agencies that will be sustainable.”
After learning of TOGETHER!’s efforts toward housing for Tumwater School District families, HUMI contacted TOGETHER! to invest in the organization’s eviction prevention efforts. Through HUMI’s contribution, and donations from the Rotary Club of Tumwater, Mountain View Church, The City of Tumwater and other community members, TOGETHER! has generated $45,000 for families in the Tumwater School District and $5,000 for families in the Yelm School District.
TOGETHER!’s grant from HUMI and matching funds will go toward housing support for families. This support includes rental assistance in the case of employment loss or rent increase, funding of first and last month’s rent, rental deposits or adjacent costs or fees necessary to access housing. In the first year of the program, TOGETHER! Helped 52 families stay housed.
“We’ve deployed this money from HUMI through our Community Schools program,” says Darrow. “So, we have relationships with families that go well beyond just their housing. They don’t just get money and go away. We have ongoing relationships in many different domains to make sure that they stay stable.”
Darrow says that for many families, the monetary assistance needed is often on a short-term basis and often equals under $300. As a part of the program, case managers work with families to seek alternative income sources or governmental assistance to aid in long-term housing support. But no matter the monetary amount, the value for students to have access to stable housing is priceless. To help children and families maintain stable housing, TOGETHER! can help children reach their goals and stay engaged in school.
“TOGETHER! sees kids as much more than the outcome,” says Darrow. “There’s many more things other than the quality of the curriculum that helps students be successful in school. Childhood trauma is a real thing, so when students start in crisis at home, which includes housing instability or frequent moving or experiencing real homelessness or domestic violence, all of those things show up in the child, in the classroom and so we look at ways that TOGETHER! can walk alongside families to really help them make goals and make the choices they’ve identified to get those goals done.”
To learn more about TOGETHER!’s mission and programs, visit the TOGETHER! website.