Oregon’s population of homeless students rose once again last year. The state’s annual homeless student report says more than 19,000 kids living in inadequate shelter.
And as Rob Manning reports, the state’s largest district no longer has the biggest homeless student population.
A year ago, Oregon reported a 14 percent rise in the number of homeless students. So, this year’s smaller increase of 5.5 percent offers a ray of hope to Dona Bolt.
She has long supervised Oregon’s homeless student programs for the state education department.
Dona Bolt: “And I’m hoping that it’s a trend that it’s slowing around, and might actually turn around. I’ve been doing this 23 years, and I’ve never seen the numbers go down. They always go up.”
The state’s numbers haven’t gone down but Portland’s have. Dona Bolt says Portland’s homeless students appear to be moving to other area school districts.
Dona Bolt: “This could be because of migration out of the inner city core into the suburbs and other outlying areas, where services are more available than they were before. It could be that families are moving into affordable housing that’s not available in the Portland downtown area.”
The growth shows up east of Portland, in places like the Reynolds school district where homelessness has grown from affecting about 400 students to more than 750 in the last five years.
Homeless families are showing up west of Portland, too.
Beaverton has overtaken Portland as the district with the most homeless students in Oregon. More than 1500 homeless kids attend a Beaverton school.
Lisa Mentesana runs Beaverton’s homeless student program. She says the homeless numbers surprise people in suburban Washington County.
Lisa Mentesana: “We are serving families that are living doubled-up, or even tripled-up, we even have families that are living, four families in a two bedroom apartment. When we explain that, sometimes a community member will say ‘well, they have shelter, they have a place to sleep at night.’ Well, they do, but it’s not stable.”
Homeless students aren’t just a metro-area problem. Medford has Oregon’s second-biggest homeless student population behind Beaverton.
The highest percentage of homeless students tends to be in rural Oregon.
This year, in Jackson County’s Butte Falls, more than one in five students were considered homeless at some point, last year.