Non-profit looks to house more high school students experiencing housing issues


Non-profit TOGETHER! is looking to provide more high school students experiencing housing instability with short-term housing through its Host Homes Program.

Host Homes Program Director Tami Lathrop gave an update to the Tumwater City Council on Tuesday, July 25, about where they were with the program and what they plan to do next.

Tumwater has a multi-year contract with TOGETHER! to help house unaccompanied youth through the Host Homes Program. The contract started in 2021 and would end on August 31 this year.

The program works by matching unaccompanied high school students with host families willing to provide short-term housing, which TOGETHER! facilitates by supporting both the student and host family.

Lathrop told the city council that they have matched seven students overall since the year started, three of which from the Tumwater School District (TSD).

Two of these students, which were both at risk of not graduating, finished high school this year and received full scholarships to Saint Martin's University and South Puget Sound Community College. The third student was reunited with their mother and received rental support to get them into an apartment together.

Lathrop told the council that they originally identified 10 TSD students who they could potentially match, but has since adjusted their goals.

“I think now with the experience and information that I have, we have to realize that just because they're unaccompanied doesn't mean that they're going to want to be in the program,” Lathrop said.

“This program truly only works with their buy-in. That's what I talk to students about all the time is that we highlight the great things about it, but it's only going to work and operate if [the student] wants to be in it.”

Lathrop is now aiming to match seven students from TSD. Aside from TSD, they also operate in the North Thurston Public School District. Lathrop said their next goal would be to work at the Olympia School District.

“Even with the slow start and lower number than we anticipated, the program's really at a strong place. The pilot, in my opinion, is a success because now we're in a place where both the school districts we've worked in Tumwater and North Thurston really do see us as a viable option,” Lanthrop said.

Lathrop also shared other challenges they were facing.

First is that they do not have the capacity to provide mental health support with their current staffing level. They hired a licensed mental health counselor who has since left the program, so they are now looking to recruit a new one.

Another issue was acquiring parental permission, as some parents were unavailable. Lathrop said they partnered with the non-profit Legal Counsel for Youth and Children to help them deal with such cases.


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