For Immediate Release
September 28, 2011
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Oregon passes a grim new milestone: more than 20,000 students were homeless last year
Homelessness among Oregon’s school children has increased again, according to the latest report by the Oregon Department of Education. Each year, school districts across Oregon count the number of children who experience homelessness at least once during the school year. During the 2010-2011 school year, homelessness increased to 20,545 students enrolled in K-12, an increase of nearly 8% despite federal stimulus funds designed to prevent increases in homelessness during the recession. The State of Oregon can and must do more to protect those among us most affected by the economic downturn.
Too many families in our community can’t afford a safe, stable place to call home,” said Katey Townsend, Homeless Outreach Program Coordinator for the Lincoln County School District. “We work hard to make sure that homeless children have the support and resources needed to stay in school; stable housing is a critical ingredient to our students’ wellbeing and success.”
Across Oregon, the number of homeless school children is now over 20,000. In the Medford School district, more than one in ten students is homeless, and statewide an average of one student per classroom is homeless. As the recession continues, more and more of our Oregon families find themselves homeless for the first time.
The Housing Alliance knows that the devastating cuts to essential services and supports are impacting our families and neighbors, and we know that these impacts hit hardest those who are already hurting. “There are more homeless children in Oregon than ever before. Without a safe place to call home, kids struggle to succeed in school,” said Martha McLennan, Executive Director of Northwest Housing Alternatives. “We’re asking the Legislature to protect programs that support hard working families. The prolonged recession and the continuing shortage of affordable housing have left too many of our neighbors at risk of homelessness.”
“In Oregon, we believe everyone needs a place to call home. While the Legislature accomplished many things before they adjourned in June, it’s important to recognize and understand that overall this past Legislative session was a disaster for low income Oregonians,” said Alison McIntosh of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “We’re failing our children by letting them experience homelessness. We all want kids to succeed in school and life – for their future and ours. To succeed, they need a place to call home.”
Each year, school districts across Oregon and the United States track the number of students who experience homelessness. Districts and homeless school liaisons work to ensure kids can stay in school and try to help students with transportation and other assistance like food and housing.
As the 2012 session approaches, the Housing Alliance is calling on the Legislature to consider the impacts of the 2011-13 budget and the possibility of allocating additional resources to help families most affected by the economic downturn.