How School Administrators Can Be Key Partners in Housing Stability

Deanna Creighton Cook and Serge Martinez had a problem. They knew that rental assistance and legal services could prevent eviction for families in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but their initial efforts weren’t identifying families early enough in the quick eviction process for assistance to make a difference. So they used their backgrounds in tenant legal assistance and community school services and pivoted to a new strategy.

“We had a eureka moment when we noticed the extreme overlap between areas of high eviction rates and high school mobility—that is, students leaving schools during the school year. We know that mobility has a seriously deleterious effect on student achievement—for individual students and, less intuitively, their classrooms and their entire schools—and so we thought that reducing evictions could lower mobility in some of our county's poorest schools,”

- Martinez and Creighton Cook

Out of this idea, they developed Amparo, a nonprofit funded through private donations and philanthropic grants that provides rental assistance to prevent homelessness among families with school-age children. Community school coordinators in the ABC Community School network or McKinney-Vento school staff members vet and submit relief requests to Amparo, allowing assistance to reach families faster. These services especially help students from families with low incomes and students learning English.

This service model reflects a growing body of work that leverages existing homelessness services in schools to intervene with rental or legal assistance to prevent eviction and housing instability. These partnerships grew during the pandemic, as school systems worked with staff members at local emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs to develop systems and procedures that supported families facing housing instability. These partnerships highlight an opportunity for schools and their partners to continue to expand assistance networks and integrate eviction diversion and rental assistance programs more effectively into their standard support systems.

How housing instability affects students

Research shows housing affordability, stability, and quality and neighborhood quality are foundational to improving educational outcomes among children in families with low incomes.

“A supportive and stable home environment, including housing stability, can complement the efforts of educators and lead to improved student academic outcomes. Safe and affordable housing may foster the educational success of low-income children by supporting family financial stability; reducing mobility; providing safe, nurturing living environments; and providing a platform for community self-determination,”

- Martinez and Creighton Cook

How schools supported housing stability during the pandemic

Increased hardship and increased support resources during the pandemic allowed schools and rental assistance programs to forge new partnerships. Though many of these programs were temporary because they relied on funding that has now expired, other programs have found ways to make these new support systems more permanent.

Considerations for expanding partnerships

Many localities strengthened partnerships between school systems and housing support systems during the pandemic, even if only temporarily. Now, there is an opportunity to leverage relationships between schools and housing supports to more effectively prevent housing insecurity for students.

“Teachers are often the first ones to be aware when students are experiencing housing instability, and we have found that families who have an existing relationship with the school are able to receive assistance in a timely and efficient manner,”

- Martinez and Creighton Cook

A few best practices could help localities effectively integrate housing stability programs and school systems. 

By working together, local housing assistance programs and school systems can better prevent homelessness for students and their families, helping to ensure foundational educational success and stability that could improve their life outcomes.