Oregon’s rate of homeless students continues to rise

Officials say 21,340 students don't have a fixed and adequate nighttime residence

A new study shows Oregon has a higher rate of homeless students now than during the recession. November 22, 2016, (KOIN)
A new study shows Oregon has a higher rate of homeless students now than during the recession. November 22, 2016, (KOIN)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) – More students in Oregon are homeless than the number last year, a disturbing trend that has now gone on for three years.

The Oregon Department of Education says 21,340 students, or 3.7 percent of the public school K-12 population, don’t have a fixed and adequate nighttime residence.

Reacting to the report issued Tuesday, the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition is urging the Legislature to protect tenants at risk of losing their homes as a result of eviction and severe rent increases.

The Education Department says children who are experiencing homelessness are at risk for not coming to school ready to learn and that the instability often results in students missing school and falling behind academically.

One single mother named Abby told KOIN 6 News she took her daughter (an elementary school student) and left a verbally abusive relationship a little more than a year ago. They lived in a tent and would go to a nearby library to do homework.

“We’d go to the library to do homework or make life seem a little bit normal,” she said.

Abby said the cold and humiliation of living in a tent were sometimes too much for her and her daughter.

Now the two are safe and warm at Union Gospel Missions’ LifeChange in Beaverton.

The school districts with the most homeless students are in Portland, Beaverton and Medford.

Lisa Mentesana, homeless education coordinator for the Beaverton School District, called the situation a crisis and said the numbers are only going to rise.

“The reality of the situation is that a large number of these people are working families. They’re underemployed, they’ve been displaced and they can no longer afford to live in this community,” said Mentesana.