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New housing option for Tacoma homeless college students

New housing option for Tacoma homeless college students (PHOTO: KOMO News)

TACOMA, Wash. - A ground-breaking new apartment building has opened to deal with the growing challenge of college students who find themselves homeless.

"This is going to be huge for our students," said Armen Papyan, a student at the University of Washington Tacoma. "It's going to be game changer. I was actually homeless myself."

Papyan spoke to us in front of the Koz Apartments, just off campus, which is opening now for 52 homeless students.

He is a senior and student body president, but as a freshman he had no permanent place to live.

"If I had this back then it would have been huge for me," he said.

The housing is a private development built by Koz Development, a private real estate company.

University of Washington Tacoma student leaders played a key role in connecting the Tacoma Housing Authority to Koz Development, which made the subsidy program possible.

With the help of federal money, the Tacoma Housing Authority is helping the students pay for the apartments so they can concentrate on their studies.

"We think this is a way to spend the housing dollar, not just to house someone, but to get them a life transforming education," said THA executive director Michael Mirra.

And it's not just at this campus. The housing authority says public colleges around the region have large numbers of homeless students. In fact, they're spending $2 million in federal funds this year to house students attending Tacoma Community College.

"That means the world," said TCC student Ishae Gainous. She is a single mom and about to move into the Highland Flats, what used to be called the Tiki Apartments. After all of the previous residents of the Tiki Apartments were legally evicted and the place remodeled, the new owner made an agreement with the housing authority to reserve 50 of the units for TCC students.

"And it just means a lot to go to school and I don't have to worry and stress and that I can still have a place to call home and I can raise my son and he has a place of his own as well," said Gainous. "It means a lot."

"I just kind of kept pushing forward and stayed in school," said fellow TCC student Morgan Smith. She also is a single mom and has already moved into the Highland Flats. "And with the assistance of the team at Tacoma Community College they helped me and now I'm more successful than I was before."

The builder of the Koz Apartments hopes this is all the start of a trend.

"We would like to partner with Tacoma Housing Authority and continue this partnership and other projects going forward, absolutely," said Koz Development President and CEO Cathy Reines.

The need is so great the Tacoma Housing Authority says it hopes to get more of these partnerships with apartment building owners and get other apartment building owners involved near campuses around the region.

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