Equity & Diversity Photo Essay

A Home for Learning

By Education Week Photo Staff — December 10, 2014 2 min read
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Kimora Gantt, right, does homework while her brother Jason Gantt, 5, gets his hair cut by his father, Bobby Gantt. After struggling with homelessness, the family has found stability in a home they rent through a local housing authority in Tacoma, Wash.

For Education Week’s story on a housing partnership at McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash., photographer Ian C. Bates spent time with a formerly homeless family that has now found stability and hope in a home and academic supports for its school-age children.

I spent a few hours with the Gantt family of eight on a cold and rainy afternoon in Tacoma, Wash.

This was one of those assignments where the stars align, with six energetic and hardworking kids doing their thing. Sometimes you are at an assignment where the people you are photographing are so aware of your every move that it’s hard to keep things candid. This was definitely not the case at the Gantt’s: I practically disappeared.

Bobby Gantt greets his 5-year-old son, Jason Gantt, as a bus drops him off from after kindergarten class school in Tacoma, Wash.

I met Bobby Gantt, father and stepfather to the children, outside his family’s townhouse that had been home for them for a little over three years at this point. The Tacoma school district has partnered up with a local housing authority to help families settle into a home and decrease the amount of moving that occurs with families that do not have stable housing. This allows the children to stay in one school district instead of moving around a lot. It really seems to be working well for the Gantts.

Kimora Gantt, right, shushes her younger sister, 3-year-old Brooklyn Gantt, left, while doing homework at their four bedroom townhouse. The program that helped supply the housing is one of a small but growing number of “place based” solutions that aim to tackle the problem of family mobility.
The Gantt family says grace before eating a snack at their townhouse. “We were always just on the go,” recalls family patriarch, Bobby Gantt, of their time moving between temporary living situations. These kids were used to waking up like, “What’s next?”

The two oldest kids got off their bus and promptly began plugging away at their homework. They were joined by their younger sister and, later, their younger brother. It was incredible to see how disciplined these children were in getting their homework finished before they did anything else. The biggest moment for me from my time there was watching how each of them helped one another out without hesitation. I think that is the true meaning of a family. Each member contributed something throughout the evening, whether it be entertaining a younger sibling or making a snack for the whole family. Success stories from programs like the one the Gantts are involved in are really refreshing at a time when a lot of what I photograph on assignment represents failure.

Tameka Gantt holds her youngest daughter, 1-year-old Bella Gantt, while daughter, Brooklyn Gantt, 3, looks on. Fifty families in the local Tacoma school district have agreed to keep their children enrolled in school for as long as they participate in the housing program.
Light from a television illuminates Kimora Gantt, 8, as she unwinds after finishing her homework.
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Kindergartner Jason Gantt, and 3-year-old Brooklyn Gantt, run up the stairs to play house at their home in Tacoma. “Kids, they feel things,” says Bobby Gantt of the family’s formerly mobile life. “We wanted to make sure these kids didn’t carry our burden.”

At one point, Bobby Gantt got his hair clippers out to give his son a haircut. This is where the stars aligned for me. His daughter was still doing her homework at the table next to the bathroom and it just provided that extra layer of information that makes a great picture. Assignments like this one are rare these days. I am mostly out making pictures of business people or something mundane, but when I get the opportunity to spend time with a family and really get to know them while I am making pictures, it allows me to portray them more truthfully.

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A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

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