Singing bill to help mentoring causes.

Public housing after-school programs could get boost if AHEAD bill passes

By Stell Simonton, Youth Today

Editor’s Note: We often think of mentoring programs based out of schools, libraries, or YMCA’s. Having after-school programs connected with public housing authorities has the potential to open doors for youth who aren’t able to attend because of after school responsibilities. The AHEAD bill, now before Congress, could expand such programs among a host of other youth focused initiatives, providing benefits to underserved youth and improving outcomes across the board.

After-school programs connected with public housing could expand if a bill introduced in December by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state passes Congress.

Murray’s legislation would incentivize partnerships between school districts and housing authorities to reduce housing instability and improve educational outcomes for housing-insecure kids. Community-based organizations could also take part.

The AHEAD Act, or Affordable Housing for Educational Achievement Demonstration Act, would provide $150 million in grants through the U.S. Department of Education. The goal is to coordinate the work of schools and public housing.

“The cross-sector work is important,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), “Housing instability affects learning.”

More than one-third of low-income youth either live in public housing or receive some type of federal housing assistance, according to a report by the nonprofit Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC).

Compared with all U.S. children, these children have worse health, greater educational barriers and a greater risk of homelessness, according to the report.

Research shows that educational outcomes are better when parents are involved in education. when kids have access to supports such as health care and meal programs and when their school attendance is good, the report said.

Under the AHEAD Act, a housing authority could, for example, get funds to hire an education coordinator to run after-school or mentoring programs or connect residents to support services.

Two-year grants would be available for plan services and five-year grants would be available to implement them.

The vision is based on several programs in Washington state that connect the dots between housing and education.

“They began a partnership with school systems,” Zaterman said of the housing authorities. Their data-sharing identified households that were served by both the school and the housing authority. They then identified issues around absenteeism, grade level reading and attendance, she said.

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