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Crystal Greene, 503-947-5650

November 15, 2012

Far Too Many Oregon Students Still Facing Homelessness

The number of students affected by homelessness remains over 20,000

(SALEM, Ore.)
– Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton today announced that 20,370 students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools lived in a homeless situation at some point during the 2011-12 school year. This is down very slightly from the 20,545 reported in the previous school year.

“For the second year in a row, the number of Oregon students dealing with homelessness topped 20,000,” said Deputy Superintendent Rob Saxton. “These numbers are a sobering reminder of the very real impact our economic situation is having on our students and families. It is also a reminder of how essential our support services are. As we saw on the East Coast with hurricane Sandy, communities rely on their first responders – their heroes – in times of crisis. For our families and students in crisis their local homeless liaison is often that first responder, that hero.”

Making a Difference – Breaking the Cycle
Every school district in Oregon has a designated Homeless Liaison who helps homeless students and their families connect to resources and navigate the often complex system of social services. It is these liaisons who work to make sure students have what they need to come to school ready and able to learn. Liaisons connect families to placement assistance, provide students with school supplies and clothing, and help coordinate transportation to ensure students can continue to get to school. Liaisons also work with their communities to build partnerships and coordinate donations to further support students and families faced with homelessness.

"Our community's holistic approach has created a circle of support that not only helps to quickly identify those in need, but has helped to expand social support resources as well,” said Beaverton School District Homeless Liaison Lisa Mentesana. “It's opened the door to philanthropic partnerships with the faith based community, non-profits, civic organizations and many caring individuals who want to be a part of the solution. This model is successful because we're all working together to address the needs of people living in extreme poverty. This strategy helps us to identify and resolve homeless or potentially homeless situations much quicker which ultimately leads to a healthier and more stable community. It allows the school district to focus on providing a stable, safe place for homeless children to acquire an education that will ultimately help them to escape a life of poverty.”

Only 40 of Oregon’s 197 school districts reported zero homeless students during the 2011-12 school year. Both rural and urban communities are having to come together to address the causes of homelessness and provide the support and services to keep students safe, fed, clothed, and in school.

“Homelessness affects all of us,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton. “The recent recession hit many of our families hard, and far too many of our students don’t have the security of a permanent home or a reliable next meal. Until our students’ basic needs are met, they will not be able to fulfill their potential at school. As we approach the holiday season, I want to encourage everyone to do something extra this year to help our neighbors and fellow Oregonians. Our liaisons are doing an incredible job of supporting our homeless youth, but they cannot do it alone. If we are going to build the state we want for our kids, we must work together to end the cycle of poverty and give all of our students a shot at a bright and hopeful future.”

A Closer Look at the Numbers
The number of identified homeless students in Oregon K-12 public schools has more than doubled in the last ten years. Statewide, 3.65% of K-12 students were homeless at some point during the 2011-12 school year.

In addition to the more than 20,000 homeless students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools, over 1,000 homeless preschoolers (ages 3-5) were identified with the assistance of Head Start and Oregon Pre-Kindergarten Programs. This is the second year data on homeless preschoolers has been available and the numbers have remained relatively steady from last year to this year.

As in past years, there were more homeless students enrolled in 12th grade than any other grade level. And the number of unaccompanied homeless minors who have been abandoned by their parents or who have run away from home continues to rise. In 2011-12, there were 3,913 identified unaccompanied minors, an increase of over 400 from the previous year.

The table below lists the ten Oregon school districts with the largest numbers of homeless students grades K-12.

School District Number of Homeless Students Grades K-12 Total District Enrollment Percent of Homeless to Total Enrollment
Beaverton SD
Portland SD
Medford SD
Reynolds SD
Salem-Keizer SD
Bend-LaPine SD
Eugene SD
Springfield SD
David Douglas SD
Lincoln County SD

Homelessness takes many forms. A homeless family could be living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing, reside in a motel, tent or trailer for lack of alternative, adequate housing, or share housing with another family due to loss of a home or economic hardship.

“In the last few years, I have noticed more and more families opting for shared living space or crowding several family members into a one or two bedroom home,” said Sisters School District Homeless Liaison Dawn Cooper. “This kind of substandard housing is the only affordable way for families to survive in our rural community. Each year, the number of homeless students has risen in Sisters as more and more families cannot afford a home of their own.”

The number of homeless students has increased over the years at pace with unemployment and housing foreclosure rates both here in Oregon and around the country. Federal funding to support the education of homeless students is provided through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

For an audio clip of Deputy Superintendent Saxton, go to: http://video.orvsd.org/ode/homeless-release-2012.MP3.

Click here Excel Spreadsheet for a data file with homeless student enrollment and percentages by district.

Click here Excel Spreadsheet for a data file with homeless student counts (both K-12 and PK-12) by school district.

Click here Excel Spreadsheet for a data file for totals of homeless students (PK-12) by county.

Click here PDF for additional information on student homelessness in Oregon.

Click here for our Homeless Education webpage.

Rob Saxton , Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction
Crystal Greene, Communications, Telephone (503) 947-5650

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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