Community Spotlight: The REACH Center

Published: June 21, 2024

Challenger High School students visiting the REACH Center at Tacoma Community House

The Community Leadership in Action Class from Challenger High School in Spanaway, Wa. visited the REACH Center and learned about their Homeless Student Stability Program

A coordinated network of support is critical for addressing the needs of the nearly 40,000 students experiencing homelessness in Washington’s K-12 public schools. Key to this are partnerships between community-based organizations and school districts funded through our state’s Homeless Student Stability Program (HSSP). The REACH Center in Tacoma, recipient of an HSSP grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce, is demonstrating why this work is so impactful for students and families in their community.

Forging deep community partnerships in service to the needs of youth and young adults has been a cornerstone of the REACH Center’s work since it was founded more than a decade ago. Now integrated with Tacoma Community House, REACH provides education, employment, housing, and other support services for young people ages 16-24 throughout Tacoma and Pierce County.

Through HSSP, the REACH Center has helped 43 families in the Bethel, Sumner/Bonney-Lake, Franklin-Pierce, and Puyallup school districts during the 2023-2024 school year. All of these school districts are in unincorporated Pierce County, which lacks services for youth and families, making these partnerships with REACH that much more important. School building staff, such as McKinney-Vento homeless liaisons, support students and families by being a resource in schools and helping to get their immediate needs met. REACH Center HSSP staff have a direct line of communication with school staff for referrals and will also physically come meet students and families in their schools to provide support and help them with larger issues, such as how to obtain and maintain stable housing.

HSSP also enables REACH to provide flexible funding to students and families who need help with expenses like move-in costs, rental arrears, utility bills, groceries and household supplies, and furniture.

Quote from REACH staff“The incredible flexibility of HSSP funding has made it easy for us to meet our participants where they are at. We have spent an average of $3,300 to help stabilize each family we have served,” said Liam McEvilly, REACH’s Homeless Student Stability Program specialist. “Here at REACH we firmly believe that a stable and comfortable home will always have a positive impact on a child’s education and because of that belief, we help families with more than just move-in costs. We have also helped prevent a number of families from becoming homeless using this funding,” he added.

In the 2024-2025 school year, the REACH Center will be expanding their HSSP work to include Chief Leschi Schools, the largest Bureau of Indian Affairs School constructed in the nation which is operated by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. Additionally, a recent grant from Pierce County will enable REACH to help more students and families in two of the communities they serve through HSSP (Parkland and Spanaway) in the coming school year.

Beyond their partnerships with school districts, REACH works with a variety of other community partners so that students and families have a full range of support in their journey from homelessness to stability. This level of coordination, resource connecting, and responsiveness is possible because of HSSP and the REACH Center’s commitment to building trusting relationships and a caring network of support for young people and families. Building Changes is proud to collaborate with REACH, other HSSP grantees, school districts, and state agency partners to support this vital work happening across Washington!

Learn more about the Homeless Student Stability Program (HSSP), and visit the REACH Center’s website

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