A 'Promise' to help homeless students
More than 300 students in the Tigard-Tualatin, Sherwood and Lake Oswego school districts didn't have a consistent home last school year, according to the Oregon Department of Education. Now, a new local arm of a national nonprofit is aiming to help those students and families.
Family Promise of Tualatin Valley formed in late 2016, with the purpose of providing temporary housing for homeless families in those three school districts. The organization will do so by teaming up with at least 13 "hosts" — mainly churches or other private organizations — who can house families for a week at a time, four times per year.
Like Family Promise of Beaverton, also recently launched, the organization plans to operate a day center, where family members who aren't at work or school can spend their days. The day center will have snacks, homework helpers and other resources.
"We've actually gotten a great response from the community," said Florian Raqueño, a member of Family Promise of Tualatin Valley's volunteer leadership team. "We have secured some hosts, and we're still recruiting hosts and support hosts for the program."
So far, the organization has five dedicated hosts, and is in talks with several more potential hosts. Leadership team members have spent the last year giving presentations to churches, and holding community presentations. Raqueño said that all an organization needs to be a host is enough space for up to 14 people to sleep in, and that Family Promise can provide cots and partitions.
It will hold a "Drive In, Sleep Out" fundraising event on May 26 and 27 at Tigard High School. Participants can choose to sleep in their cars the night of May 26 to bring awareness to the plight that homeless families face.
Family Promise of Tualatin Valley hopes to raise $35,000 at its "Drive In, Sleep Out" event, through both participation and corporate sponsorship. The funds will go toward operating the nonprofit's Day Center.
Raqueño said that many homeless families in the area resort to sleeping in their cars, and that often their fellow community members don't know it is happening.
"People don't know the numbers," she said. "When we cover Tigard-Tualatin, Sherwood and Lake Oswego, people don't want to think that there are actually homeless families or homeless school-aged children in those districts. It's surprising to them to actually see those numbers."
She added that she's met with some homeless students and families in the area, and that "when you hear the stories, it's mind-boggling."
"There are some teenagers who don't know where they're going to sleep," she said. "They've slept where they shouldn't have, but it's because they don't have another place to go. And that's a teenager who's trying to graduate from high school."