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September 28, 2011
Homelessness now affects over 20,000 students in Oregon
School district liaisons provide critical services to homeless youth
(SALEM, Ore.) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo today released data showing that 20,545 students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools lived in homeless situations at some point during the last school year. This is 1,500 more homeless students than were reported in the prior school year.
“The number of homeless students in Oregon continues to rise as families and communities struggle with persistent economic challenges,” said Superintendent Castillo. “But behind each of these numbers is a child, a family, a story. Homeless families in Oregon, and around the country, face a host of challenges from finding a safe place to stay and food to eat to making sure students get to school ready to learn. These are very real challenges without easy solutions, but in every school district in Oregon these families have a resource, a homeless liaison ready to help with school supplies, clothing, placement assistance, and transportation to school. These individuals make it possible for our homeless youth to both access and achieve at school.”
Getting Students the Supports They Need
For many students without permanent housing, the simple act of getting to class can be a real challenge. One of the many vital services provided by homeless liaisons is to help students to get to, and stay in, school. One homeless liaison recently received a call from a mother living in a station wagon with her two children. “I have 300 pennies to my name right now,” the mother said. “That’s not even enough to put gas in this car.” Thanks to the homeless liaison and their network of community supports, the family received the help they needed and the two children were able to get back in school.
“I am so grateful for the incredible work of our homeless liaisons,” said Castillo. “These dedicated individuals make sure that all students, no matter what their living situation, have the supports, resources, and encouragement to go to school and to succeed. These liaisons play a critical role in our schools and neighborhoods but they cannot do this work alone. As communities, we need to come together with a shared sense of responsibility to ensure that these students receive the supports they need to succeed in school and beyond. Whether you volunteer, donate, or simply share a kind word, you can make a huge difference in the lives of these kids.”
A Look at the Numbers
The number of identified homeless students in Oregon K-12 public schools has more than doubled since the 2003-04 school year and has increased by more than 1500 since the 2009-10 school year. Statewide, 3.7% of Oregon K-12 students were homeless at some point during the 2010-11 school year. This is up from 3.4% in the 2009-10 school year. The table below lists the ten Oregon school districts with the largest numbers of homeless students grades K-12.
This last year was the first time data was widely available on the number of homeless preschoolers in Oregon. With the assistance of Head Start and Oregon Pre-Kindergarten Programs, a total of 1,087 homeless preschoolers (age 3-5) were identified. This number is not included in the K-12 total.
On the other end of the spectrum, Oregon has more homeless students in their senior year of high school than in any other grade level, a statistic that is different from other states. National data shows most states have identified more homeless students in primary grade levels. Liaisons work with homeless high school students to help them with graduation goals, credit recovery, and applications for financial aid.
This past year, the number of homeless students who were unaccompanied by parents or guardians grew to 3,494—an increase of 17% over the previous year. Liaisons play a particularly critical role when working with unaccompanied minors in helping students stay in school and work toward completing Oregon’s graduation requirements.
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