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Report: Homelessness Lessons for 21,000 OR Students

PHOTO: Homework isn’t the biggest challenge for thousands of Oregon students; their challenge is homelessness. Many young people them are staying with parents in a motel, sleeping on the floor or the living room couch of a friend or they’re in campgrounds.
PHOTO: Homework isn’t the biggest challenge for thousands of Oregon students; their challenge is homelessness. Many young people them are staying with parents in a motel, sleeping on the floor or the living room couch of a friend or they’re in campgrounds.
November 16, 2012

SALEM, Ore. – Homework isn't the biggest challenge for thousands of Oregon school children. Their toughest assignment is homelessness.

The Oregon Department of Education has released its annual tally – finding that more than 21,000 students experienced homelessness at some point during the last school year.

Lincoln County has one of the highest per-capita student homeless rates in the state, and County Commissioner Bill Hall says that surprises people who claim they don't "see" homeless students.

"A lot of them are staying with one or both parents in a cheap motel, sleeping on the floor or the living room couch of a friend, they're in campgrounds, and sometimes they are in the woods. So, even though they're not visible, they are here."

Hall says there are five homeless outreach coordinators in the school district to try to connect families to resources, but there are not enough resources. He says the Oregon State Legislature needs to increase funding for emergency rental assistance and affordable housing construction.

Kenny LaPoint chairs the Homeless Leadership Coalition for Central Oregon. He explains that families face homelessness when they lose jobs, a parent experiences a disability or parents are working low-wage jobs. He says unemployment checks, disability payments and minimum wage often aren’t enough.

"Those amounts don't provide enough for families to obtain housing. Folks have to be able to save up money, and when you have a very limited amount, you can't save up in order to pay for things like security deposits."

Commissioner Hall says while the report shows the student homeless numbers have stayed about the same, there are subtle shifts in the demographics that should catch legislators' attention.

"And really troubling to me is the fact that the number of homeless youth who are unaccompanied, without either parent or an adult guardian, has been rising pretty steadily over the last few years."


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - OR