For students, opportunity starts with having a home

One of my favorite photos is of the students I taught at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. I will never forget the day one of the kids returned to the shelter after his family found affordable housing. He was so excited to tell me all about it. Opening the door to their new home meant doors of opportunity would open for him.

Students who have the security of a home are able to concentrate better in school. They can imagine, dream, and be curious about the world without the burden of adult worries. They have a better chance of graduating high school when they have homes. That’s why the NEA is proud to be part of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign.

Our nation is facing a shortage of 7 million affordable homes. For every 100 of the lowest-income families in America, only 35 homes are affordable and available, and barely one out of four families actually gets the help they need. Many families are pushed further into poverty because they’re paying rent they can’t afford, or they are forced into homelessness.

The Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, launched this spring (take a look at launch video launching here), recognizes that housing advocates cannot fix the affordable housing crisis alone; educators, health-care providers, civil-rights organizations, and many, many others must pitch in.

Housing touches every aspect of life, and a “home” is more than a structure. Home is a child’s universe. Unless we come together to advocate for solutions, many kids won’t have the stability and security that my student finally found.

As an educator, I want all students to have the resources and support they need. I want them to be acknowledged and treasured as the beautiful, unique individuals they are, whether home is a mini-mansion on the most exclusive side of town or one room in a shelter. But we know that decent housing helps reduce the level of stress in students’ lives, which means they can turn their full attention to learning and discovery.

The Opportunity Starts at Home agenda includes repairing and modernizing existing public housing, protecting the national Housing Trust Fund, and expanding rental assistance for poor families.

The campaign also wants to make sure families’ rent costs are such that they can still afford other necessities, such as groceries, child care, and transportation.

We know what works. In 2012, housing assistance lifted 4 million people out of poverty.

But at a time when we need more affordable housing, the Trump administration is advancing policies that would take us in the opposite direction. They want to triple rent for the poorest households. That’s on top of Donald Trump’s recent executive order making it harder for poor families to receive Medicaid and food stamps.

We don’t have to let this crisis continue. Please sign Opportunity Starts at Home’s call to action. Find out more about the challenges to housing affordability here. You can also become part of the campaign.

We have a responsibility to make our voices heard on this issue as people who are committed to every single student.


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