Tacoma Community College Housing Assistance Program

THA - Tacoma Community College Housing Assistance Program: A Summary

In September 2014, Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) and Tacoma Community College (TCC) launched their College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP). This innovative program, now expanded in 2018, will house and support 150 homeless or near homeless TCC students during their TCC enrollment. About 75% of them are parents of young children; 25 of these students will have begun their TCC studies while in prison. As a condition of the assistance, students must make adequate academic progress toward a degree. The assistance lasts until graduation or 3 years, whichever occurs first. Harvard’s Kennedy School recently named the CHAP among the nation’s top 25 most innovative governmental initiatives for 2018. Learn More about Harvard Kennedy School's top 25 most innovative governmental programs 2018.



TCC has a student population of nearly 14,000 students. It is the largest college in the South Puget Sound Region. In comparison to students of other colleges, TCC students are older, lower income, more likely to be parents, more likely to be working, and more likely to be their family’s first to attend college. TCC is justifiably proud of the warm welcome it gives them. A TCC degree can transform their lives.


Yet, a notable number of TCC students do not have stable housing. In 2016, the University of Wisconsin’s HOPE LAB surveyed TCC students about basic needs. 69% of TCC students responding to the survey reported serious housing insecurity within the 12 month prior to the survey; 27% reported that within those 12 months they experienced homelessness. Learn more about University of Wisconsin's HOPE Lab Report. It is hard to attend college without a stable place to live. The challenges are harder for homeless students who are also parents. Most homeless students drop out.



CHAP began in 2014 as a pilot program housing 47 homeless TCC students and their children. The pilot’s evaluation tracked their retention/graduation rates and grade point average, in comparison with 154 homeless TCC students who did not fit in the pilot. The results after two years were very encouraging:



THA and TCC expanded CHAP in 2018. It has four main elements: (1) housing; (2) expectations that the students will progress academically; (3) on-campus support; (4) third-party evaluation.

Rental Assistance or Housing During College Enrollment
THA provides rental assistance or housing for up to 150 TCC students and dependents who are homeless or near homeless. About 75% of them are parents of young children; 25 of these students will have begun their TCC studies while in prison. When they get out of prison, they come to campus where they continue their studies. Most of them are mothers reuniting with children. The assistance lasts until graduation or 3 years, whichever occurs first

Most of THA’s housing comes in the form of rental assistance. Yet the TCC neighborhood is gentrifying. This can make it hard to find rental housing nearby even with THA’s rental assistance. In response, THA is buying up or building nearby apartment complexes to house TCC students. In addition, THA has contracted with a nearby privately owned apartment complex to pay down the rents to affordable levels and to reserve those apartments for TCC CHAP students.

Expectations and Conditions of Participation
CHAP students must: (i) remain enrolled in 12 or more academic credits and otherwise make adequate academic progress toward a degree (TCC tracks the adequacy of the student’s progress); (2) maintain at least a 2.0-grade point average; (3) participate in support services.

Campus Support
TCC provides navigators and “Completion Coaches” to support students through college.

Performance Measures and Evaluation
Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice researchers, funded by the Kresge Foundation, will assess the results of CHAP using a wide array of metrics, compared with the metrics of unassisted homeless TCC students. These metrics include: grade point average, retention/graduation rate, post-graduation earnings.



CHAP is part of THA’s Education Project. This project seeks to spend a housing dollar not only to house someone but to also (i) help them and their children succeed in school and (ii) help Tacoma schools and colleges educate low-income students. When it works it is a very good use of a housing dollar.


If you are interested in applying for this program, please contact:

Marybeth McCarthy
Resource Navigator
(253) 566-5063

For program information, please contact:
Aley Thompson
Project Manager
Tacoma Housing Authority
902 South L Street, Tacoma, WA 98405
(253) 274-5587



Barriers to Success: Housing Insecurity for US College Students [PDF]