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No Place to Call Home: Families

OPB | Sept. 24, 2009 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:01 p.m.

Last week I spoke with a dad who said he was pulling his 10 year-old son out of school, at least temporarily. He and his wife have both been unemployed for months and, when I spoke with them, the family had just maxed out their time at a local shelter. They weren’t sure where they were going to sleep that night and were considering camping. The man who spoke with me said he’d rather take his son out of school than send him to class without a shower or clean clothes to wear.

In this first episode of our new series about homelessness, No Place to Call Home, we’ll explore the lives of homeless families. Oregon has the highest rate of homelessness in the country and recent statistics show a spike in homeless families and school-aged children without a steady place to live. The western Oregon town of Falls City had the highest rate — 36 percent — of homelessness among students.

Homeless families have been called the “hidden homeless.” You might not see them sleeping on the street or asking for change at intersections because often they stay with relatives, squeeze into motel rooms or find shelters that cater specifically to parents and kids. The challenges and risks for homeless families can quickly become very complicated. 

Federal law states that homeless children must have access to education. Parents who have lost jobs and homes face the uphill battle of finding employment in a down economy coupled with a strong incentive to keep their kids’ routine as consistent as possible. Schools offer assistance for parents who may not have time to help kids with their homework or extracurricular activities.

Have you ever faced these kinds of choices as a parent? Has your family ever lost a home? How did it affect you? Do you work with homeless families?

Our No Place to Call Home series will address many different aspects of homelessness. So, if the issues facing families don’t resonate with you, please tell us about your experience with rural homelessness, homeless youth, chronic homelessness or tent cities.

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