StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member ImpactTulsa is using the power of convening and data to bring awareness to the impact that evictions and the physical environment where people live and work have on student success outcomes. They’ve built strong partnerships across housing, education and policy advocacy to improve practices affecting the well-being of families and academic outcomes for students in the Tulsa, Oklahoma region.
Research shows that experiencing housing instability or homelessness during childhood or adolescence can stifle outcomes in education attainment and economic mobility in the longterm. For these reasons, housing inequality — which can include barriers to affordability, homelessness and environmental racism — is counted among the systems indicators which contribute to racial disparities in education and employment outcomes.
As a lead data expert in the Tulsa region, ImpactTulsa is working with local partners to create a powerful data infrastructure that looks at systems indicators and flags areas of concern. These indicators show where children are being affected by equity gaps that lead to disparities in educational outcomes which continue to affect them later in life. Part of ImpactTulsa’s work includes analyzing eviction data and drawing connections between the intersection of eviction and effects on student outcomes such as attendance, chronic absenteeism rates and student mobility.
Eviction is a major problem in the city of Tulsa, which ranks at 11th nationwide in terms of eviction rates. Using early data from their Child Equity Index, ImpactTulsa and Tulsa Public schools were able to create a “heat map” which showed high concentrations of absenteeism overlapping with hot spots of formal evictions. According to Dr. Delia Kimbrel, senior director of research and policy at ImpactTulsa, that was the jumping off point for a conversation around the scale of eviction and its impact on student performance and well-being.
“How can we dig a little bit more into understanding the impact of eviction and use data to disrupt any negative aspects on children and families?” she asked. “How can we provide the data needed for interventions?” Answering these questions became even more of a priority as schools transitioned to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and students facing housing instability grappled with a lack of access to the digital technology needed to learn, or safe spaces in which to do so.
To find solutions, ImpactTulsa now convenes an eviction data working group with cross-sector partners, which includes TPS, PartnerTulsa, the Birth through Eight Strategy of Tulsa, Housing Solutions, Oklahoma Access to Justice and RestoreHope, among others. ImpactTulsa sees their role as a convenor, leveraging relationships across the city to connect the school system to partners already entrenched in housing work. Doing so is key to getting at the root of the issue. “We need our schools to be included in solution efforts, providing stabilization supports for students that are facing this huge problem,” explained Kimbrel.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute (OPI) is primary partner in accessing court data through their Open Justice Oklahoma initiative along with Asemio, a social enterprise company that uses innovative technology to improve community outcomes. The eviction data working group uses OPI’s groundbreaking analysis of court records with Asemio’s technology to match school information with eviction records. With this information, they’ve created a system specifically for school districts that alerts homeless services coordinators when students might be impacted by an eviction.
Early analysis of eviction data has uncovered several learnings that will help move the work forward, including identifying the factors that might place families at risk of experiencing an eviction and points of intervention and support to families. The group has additionally worked to map the incredibly complex eviction system, and all the likely routes that might lead a family to face homelessness.
“The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission communicates housing and court policy information to the group, helping our collective understanding that this is an institutionalized system. It isn’t just about tenants not paying rent — the whole process is complex,” Kimbrel stated. “It starts with missed rent, but there is also a very punitive fee structure that creates challenging conditions for families. It’s easy to see how families get trapped up in trying to navigate it.”
Together, the working group is curating the data in a way that’s helpful for policymakers, housing advocates and the school districts so that they can intervene. To garner support, they’re focusing on reframing the story.
“We’re trying to break the deficit-based narrative that families are doing something bad,” said Kimbrel. “How do we tell the narrative of how oppressive this is for a mom and her children?”
Prompted by data partner 9b Corp, the working group is now developing another alert system to provide notice to families who may not realize their presence is required in court to contest an eviction and counter charges from their landlords. The system will let them know they’re on the eviction docket, that they’re required to show up to court, and what resources are available to them (such as Legal Aid of Oklahoma, and the EvictionDiversion Hub, which provide day-of support). They’re also working to deepen their understanding of the data available, including analyzing how these alert systems are helping improve student well-being and academic achievement.
Thanks to the work that’s taken place so far, partners and policy champions across the city have the data they need to shift the conversation around housing, demonstrating that it’s not just a tenant issue — it’s deeply interconnected to student outcomes. And thanks to ImpactTulsa’s facilitation, they’re able to work together in a way that they couldn’t before to shift practices that center equitable cradle-to-career outcomes. This, Kimbrel says, is where network members can often find their niche.
“There are ways for collective impact partners to serve as an intermediary and help build strategy in getting everyone on board,” she explains, emphasizing the importance of those connections. “This is not solely the work of ImpactTulsa — this is the result of a rich crosssector partnership that is committed to working with data to address systemic inequities that impact families and children.”