Promising Practices Spotlight: HOST families offer stability to students experiencing homelessness

Published: February 23, 2017

Mason County HOST (Housing Options for Students in Transition) helps students who seek to earn a high school diploma, GED or technical certification – but face barriers to reaching their goals because of the homeless crisis they are experiencing.

The program connects unaccompanied youth with a HOST family that offers its home as a safe, stable and temporary place to live until the student graduates. With a legal structure similar to hosting a foreign-exchange student, a HOST family provides students three key foundations for educational success – a stable home, a caring family and a school-based support system.

The HOST family model is a promising practice for improving housing stability and advancing educational success for students experiencing homelessness. Of the 160 students who have lived with a Mason County HOST family, 98 percent have graduated high school and 100 percent have exited the program into permanent housing.

Schoolhouse Washington spotlights local innovative programs like Mason County HOST in hopes that they can serve as models across the state. We have compiled a case study of Mason County HOST that provides organizational details about the program, reports on its impressive outcomes, and offers helpful guidance for implementing a similar model locally.

Those tips include:

  • Organize the program as a nonprofit.
  • Craft a business plan to present to funders.
  • Enter into a formal agreement with the school district.

The case study also features an uplifting story about a HOST family – an older sister who is providing her little brother a stable home and, as a result, helping him realize his full potential both as a student and as a young man.

“Everything looks good right now,” says Jesus Acosta, who is earning good grades at CHOICE High School in the Shelton School District. “I plan on getting a job and saving up my money to pay for college. It’s a lot, but it’s not unmanageable.”


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