There are challenges and problems in our society that can be solved… but never are, because they require collaboration, partnership and across-the-aisle civil conversation.
The Lakewood Faith Coalition is a network of faith communities that partner to serve together. They are currently developing Support Teams for each of the eight, Title 1 elementary schools in the city. (Title 1 is a federal designation for a school that has 65%+ of its students receiving supplemental food assistance.) A “Support Team” is comprised of community members who meet regularly with school leaders to assess needs and strategize solutions.
Recently, Lakewood City Connector Reg Cox was visiting a Title 1 elementary school in Lakewood to help build the Support Team there. He was meeting with an administrator, the Principal, and a faith leader who will chair that school’s team. Each school hopes that a relationship with the Coalition will lead to improved academic scores, lower absences, and decreased discipline issues. At this school Reg was informed that they are working with 50 homeless families. 50!
The Coalition could recruit 100 tutors but may only barely move academic scores at this school because students from homeless families face debilitating struggles that disproportionately offset the progress of the rest of the student body! These homeless families are connected to Jefferson County Human Services and other services, yet without stable housing the work of these services can only have minimal impact on improving their lives.
What if we solved this part of the larger homeless need in our county?
- What if we had a network of property owners who partnered with the school system? What if Jefferson County Human Services, nonprofits, and county and civic leaders worked together to develop strategies to get these families in stable housing?
- What if these families were housed in small to medium sized housing facilities in neighborhoods throughout the school district to help facilitate commutes to school, work, and transportation?
- What if these families were rewarded with stable housing as a condition for continuing to work with support from various agencies prescribed to help them?
- What if property owners who wanted to help solve community needs were able to use their properties for housing and could also make a modest profit to pay back investors?
- What if Jeffco was the first major district in the country to house all of its homeless families?
What are some next steps in making this dream a reality?
- County Leadership: In order to move this from a dream to a plan, county government leaders should begin this conversation, because they have the ability to reach beyond city boundaries to unite government, business, and school leaders to work on this need. Lakewood Connects is currently seeking advice and support for this brainstorm.
- Model: We need a model of an affordable housing unit/facility with a modest number of families to start with. Rick Roberts and the Legacy Grace Community Development Corporation is working to purchase and develop an apartment facility for homeless housing. Legacy Grace might be the model project to test, learn from, and build on in Jefferson, County. Lakewood Connects is actively supporting Rick in this dream.
- Story: We need a strong PR strategy to tell stories and celebrate successes of students, families, property owners and neighborhoods in order to help shape the public narrative of affordable housing. Lakewood Connects is helping spread this idea to key leaders who might make it happen.