Rows of HousesEducation plays a critical role in all aspects of life, specifically for low-income families and their ability to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Low-income families often find themselves with limited access to high quality community services and resources. With the challenges they face each day to meet their basic needs, it becomes very difficult to encourage families to focus on education and seek resources for learning. Housing authorities are in a position to support families and communities by collaborating with local organizations to prioritize education.

The Fresno Housing Authority has had success in this type of partnership by teaming up on the Grade-Level Reading Campaign with First 5 Fresno County, a non-profit organization whose goal is to “ensure that all children 0-5 are born healthy and raised in nurturing homes and communities where they can grow up healthy, and reach their full potential.” With over 70,000 individuals in Fresno without a high school diploma or GED, illiteracy threatens school success and high school graduation, which in turn weakens earning capacity and ability to afford housing.

In support of the reading campaign, Fresno Housing Authority and First 5 Fresno County have partnered to launch an ongoing on-site mobile classroom education project at four Low-Income Public Housing and Tax-Credit properties across the City and County of Fresno. Extensive outreach is provided to families residing in these developments and families participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program. Under the supervision of First 5, Four AmeriCorps VISTA Advocates have been trained to conduct early learning activities with children ages 0-5 and educate their parents on the importance of family engagement in education at home.

The partnership also helped First 5 form a relationship with Fresno Housing Authority residents and begin a dialog in which parents can ask for resources that suit their individual household needs, varying from finding daycare to enrolling a child in school. These relationships have proven successful so far, and are evident in the interactions between the parents and their children. The children come to class excited, happy and smiling, and plead to stay longer when the class is over and it is time to go home.

This EdSource article written by Lillian Mongeau, highlights these types of educational community partnerships including one session at Parc Grove Commons, a Fresno Housing community that contributes to the mission of the agency—to create and sustain vibrant communities throughout Fresno County.