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Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming receive $55,000 grant to help homeless students in Cowlitz County

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Woodland Public Schools’ ongoing partnership with Love Overwhelming, a nonprofit organization based in Cowlitz County, resulted in the award of a $55,000 grant to provide resources and assistance to homeless students and their families.

A collaborative partnership between Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming resulted in the award of a $55,000 grant to help the area's homeless (Pictured: Leslie Mohlman, Jake Hall, Chuck Hendrickson, Jill Boaglio)
An ongoing collaborative partnership between Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming resulted in the award of a $55,000 grant to help the area's homeless (Pictured: Leslie Mohlman, Jake Hall, Chuck Hendrickson, Jill Boaglio)

Stemming from the Our Kids, Our Business Community Task Force dedicated to address the needs of under-resourced families and students in the Woodland community, Woodland Public Schools developed a collaborative partnership with Love Overwhelming. “The district took a serious look at Love Overwhelming’s staff and services, and decided they would make an excellent collaborative partner to raise awareness of the needs affecting vulnerable members of our community experiencing homelessness by helping to provide resources and assistance,” said Leslie Mohlman, Community, Family, Student Resource Coordinator for Woodland Public Schools. “Together, Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming identify and line up resources and services to give our homeless students and their families the help they need to find employment and homes.”

Chuck Hendrickson, Founder and Executive Director of Love Overwhelming, started the organization in 2009 after working for a mental health agency where he interviewed many applicants who couldn’t find housing. “Clark and Cowlitz counties are currently experiencing a housing crisis,” he said. “For example, only 1.6% of all housing in Vancouver is classified as ‘affordable’ which presents an incredible challenge for families who need low-income housing.”

Simply locating affordable housing opportunities can present huge barriers to low-income families. “We know of more than 30 families in our area alone who currently live in vehicles or other forms of residence not intended for permanent human habitation with more than 70 additional families who already have support vouchers but still cannot find homes to rent,” Hendrickson explained. “For me, it’s my faith that drives me – helping people find homes is my mission.”

In September, Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming received a grant for $55,000 from the Washington State Department of Commerce to provide additional staff support in the form of Housing Navigators who directly assist students and their families. “We’ve seen applicants already approved for housing support lose their vouchers because they couldn’t find available homes over the course of an entire year,” explained Jill Boaglio, a Housing Navigator from Love Overwhelming assigned to Woodland Public Schools. “We help those in need locate, obtain, and maintain housing while also helping them learn life skills ranging from attending substance abuse treatment programs and locating behavioral health services to learning tasks as simple as how to get a public library card so families can borrow books and improve their education.”

Woodland Public Schools and Love Overwhelming use flex funding to offer resources to families in need including personal health and hygiene items; transportation passes like bus passes; utility deposits and emergency payments; rental application fees; and background and credit check application fees. “The goal of the Homeless Student Stability Program is to provide consistent education for homeless students through housing stability by helping any family experiencing a housing crisis,” explained Mohlman. “To this end, we help homeless families break through the barriers preventing them from obtaining permanent housing which often include the myriad of costs involved in simply applying for housing.”

Under-resourced families and students who qualify for the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act, a federal law created to ensure the enrollment and educational stability of homeless children and youth, are the top priority. "Our goal is to connect the under-resourced families we serve with the organizations offering help in Clark and Cowlitz counties," said Mohlman. "We want to help families line up jobs and get work so they may improve their lives."

The Woodland Public Schools Family Community Resource Center (FCRC) provides resources and services to students and their families in need who live in either Cowlitz or Clark counties. To find more information about services offered by the FCRC or to find ways you can support the FCRC, you can visit their website at www.woodlandschools.org/fcrc, email mohlmanl@woodlandschools.org, or call (360) 841-2718.

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