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Jake Weigler, (503) 947-5650

September 18, 2009

State Releases Homeless Student Count: Numbers Jump with Recession

SALEM – State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced today that Oregon’s homeless student population for the 2008-09 school year was 18,059, an increase of nearly 14 percent from last school year.

The recent one-year jump, predictable in the wake of the state’s major economic recession, shows a spike in the upward trend that Oregon has experienced since this count began six years ago. Since the first count in the 2003-2004 school year, the number of homeless students in Oregon has risen 122 percent.

Number of Homeless Students in Oregon By School Year
  • 8,143 (2003-04)

  • 11,294 (2004-05)

  • 13,159 (2005-06)

  • 15,517 (2006-07)

  • 15,859 (2007-08)

  • 18,051 (2008-09)
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act Program for Education of Homeless Students, homeless students are defined as those students who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. A homeless family could live in an emergency shelter or share housing with others due to loss of housing or economic hardship, stay at motels, or live in cars, parks, public places, tents, trailers, or other similar settings.

“Oregon schools are getting these students into class, despite their dire and often chaotic living situations,” Castillo said. “Thanks to the infusion of federal stimulus dollars for the Homeless Student Education program, over half of Oregon school districts will have additional funds to help serve students and families faced with homeless living situations this year. District staff, public and nonprofit agencies and advocates need to work together cooperatively at this time, since the number of people affected by the economy is far too large for any single public entity to handle alone.”

Additional Findings From the 2008-09 Homeless Student Count
  • 18,051 of Oregon’s 564,094 students (3.2 percent) were homeless for some period of time during 2008-09.
  • 8,268 homeless students were in elementary schools (enrolled in grades K-5).
  • 3,568 homeless students were in middle schools (enrolled in grades 6-8).
  • 6,215 homeless students were in high schools (enrolled in grades 9-12).
  • Just as in past years, the largest numbers of homeless students (2,134) were in 12th grade.
  • 3,041 students within the total count were unaccompanied homeless minors who had been abandoned by parents, or had run away from home or foster care placement.
  • 13,312 homeless students shared housing with relatives or friends due to economic hardship, such as foreclosure, homes destroyed by floods or fires, job losses, etc.
  • 754 students in Oregon lived in a motel as their primary residence during the 2008-2009 school year.
  • 1,712 homeless students lived in a shelter or transitional housing as their primary residence.
  • 2,264 students were “unsheltered,” meaning they lived in cars, sheds, tents, on the streets, and/or in structures not meant for human habitation.
  • 50 of Oregon’s 197 school districts reported zero homeless students enrolled during 2008-2009.
“Unfortunately, families living in poverty struggling to get by is not a new concept in Oregon; it’s a reality we’ve been dealing with for years,” said Castillo. “District staff work diligently to ensure these students can participate in public school along with their peers, and receive the additional help they need to attend school without stigmatization. This year, due to increased foreclosures and high unemployment, we are also faced with a group of students new to poverty that we are helping during this difficult time. As we do so, we are always mindful of the need to avoid labeling the very students we are assisting. ” 

Federal funds for educationally-disadvantaged students are used in most Oregon districts in combination with funds targeted specifically for assisting homeless students. Oregon also received slightly over $1 million in additional federal McKinney-Vento funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Oregon leads the nation in combining federal funds to support homeless students,” said Barbara Duffield, Policy Director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “By ensuring that federal programs are working in tandem to meet homeless students’ needs, Oregon has developed a model that should be replicated in other states.”


Portland 1,706 45,024 3.8
Medford 1,126 12,252 9.2
Beaverton 1,114 37,656 3.0
Salem-Keizer 815 40,200 2.0
Eugene 743 17,786 4.2
Bend-LaPine 709 15,957 4.4
Woodburn 564 5,226 10.8
Reynolds 499 11,436 4.4
Lincoln County 484 5,373 9.0
David Douglas 479 10,580 4.5
Springfield 464 11,127 4.2
Hillsboro 403 20,543 2.0

Each school district in the U.S. is required to have a homeless liaison to coordinate outreach efforts and services for homeless students in their area, as well as conduct the annual counts. Liaisons make sure students are enrolled in school, have the supplies they need and provide referrals to the community services for services such as shelter, health care and counseling. In addition, districts can pay for the transportation of homeless children who have moved during the school year to help them complete that year at the school they started at in the fall.

School districts are also called on to collaborate with other county and community efforts, such as ten-year plans to end homelessness, county homeless councils, runaway and homeless youth initiatives through the Oregon Commission on Children and Families, and other local public, non-profit, community and faith-based organizations.

To reach a school district’s homeless liaison, call the local school district administrative office.

Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Jake Weigler, Communications Director, 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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