OLYMPIA — Nearly every student experiences struggles at school, but almost 40,000 students in Washington face even stiffer challenges when the school day ends.

These students are homeless.

Vancouver, Washington, resident James Hill spent nights with his 16-year-old daughter and her toddler moving between the homes of friends and sleeping in a vehicle. He worried about keeping his daughter and granddaughter safe and warm at night so his daughter could have a restful sleep and be prepared for school the next day.

One of his main goals was to ensure that his daughter went to school. She is a sophomore in Vancouver’s Evergreen Public Schools.

“I tried to keep it as normal as possible for them — even though where we slept at night was not the ideal place,” he said.

Through a state housing grant, Hill was able to move into a new home with his daughter and granddaughter. This session, the Legislature determines if funding for these grants will continue. That commitment awaits passage of the 2017-19 biennial budget.

Hill became homeless in May after his landlord raised his rent. He couldn’t afford it. His daughter and granddaughter came to live with him in July. They slept in the homes of Hill’s friends and then moved to the vehicle so his daughter could be closer to school.

Without access to the Internet or a computer in their living space, completing online assignments was challenging for Hill’s daughter. Like any high school student, his daughter wanted a social life and to entertain friends, but this was difficult without a home.

Hill tried to look for housing, but faced a financial barrier. In previous years, he left apartments because he couldn’t afford the rent. He was unable to pay the fees for breaking his rent contract. His debts continued to accumulate.

Hill worked while he was homeless and found rentals he could afford. However, landlords were concerned with the past debt on his credit report and wouldn’t allow him to rent.

He contacted Peggy Carlson, the Evergreen School District’s liaison for Students in Transition, and learned about the Homeless Student Stability and Opportunity Act Grant.

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