For students experiencing homelessness, schools and community-based organizations are a lifeline to critical services, stability, and safety. Building Changes works with school districts and community partners statewide so they can better meet the needs of students and families experiencing homelessness. Over the past two years through a partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), we have supported school districts and community partners across Washington State to better meet the needs of students and families experiencing homelessness. We have done this by designing and delivering a series of in-depth trainings for homeless student liaisons, school building staff, and community service providers, while also providing tailored technical assistance to select school districts.
Our 2021-2023 trainings and tailored technical assistance at a glance:
Providing unique learning opportunities
Homeless student liaisons, school support staff, and community-based organizations all play a critical role in ensuring that students experiencing homelessness are identified and that students and their families get connected to services. To do this work, they need targeted support and learning opportunities. Through our Response to Student Homelessness Training Series, Building Changes offered trainings on seven different topics. Each training focused on a different aspect of student support—from Navigating the Housing System to a snapshot of Diversion in Schools, and building and maintaining School/Housing Community Partnerships. Participants from across the state reported overwhelmingly positive feedback, indicating we’re making strides in helping to ensure students have the support they need to succeed.
“It was exciting to see the level of interest in these trainings and how engaged participants were,” said Samie Iverson, senior manager of education strategy at Building Changes. “While we offered each topic four times, none of the 28 trainings we did were delivered in the same way. We strove to make each training dynamic and actively tailored them with the feedback we received from training participants. Another big strength of our trainings was the brilliant lineup of guest speakers we brought in from communities across the state. Their diverse perspectives and expertise truly showcased and enhanced our training content.”
While this training series has come to a close, we are exploring ways we can continue to bring meaningful trainings to school districts, community-based organizations, and coalitions working to support students and families experiencing homelessness.
Partnering with school districts
Providing tailored technical assistance to school districts has allowed Building Changes to be a strategic partner for school district staff who are on the ground and working directly with students in their communities. With support from OSPI, we provided customized 1:1 assistance to 13 school districts in Washington State: Auburn, Bellevue, Bellingham, Burlington-Edison, Clover Park, Franklin-Pierce, Longview, Mukilteo, Richland, Puyallup, Sequim, Shelton, and Spokane.
Using the Assessment & Building Capacity (ABC) Tool, we worked alongside school district staff to support them in identifying and implementing strategies to better serve students experiencing homelessness. Feedback from our school district partners indicates that this work has helped them gain a better understanding of their own strengths and gaps, increase their commitment to using data to track strategies and measure impact, and strengthen both internal and external partnerships that are vital to ensuring students and families get the support they need.
“There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to supporting students experiencing homelessness. Every community and every school district is unique. They know best what they need,” said Joey Heilman, senior education strategy specialist at Building Changes. “We are there as a thought partner to help them uncover and implement their own solutions.”