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When Tara Cleland saw a presentation on the Second Home program in Beaverton, she knew she needed to bring it to East Multnomah County. Cleland oversees East Metro Mediation and hopes to connect homeless high school students with home providers, eliminating one barrier to their educational success.

The Second Home program functions as a placement service for these needy students, but unlike the Department of Human Services, these placements involve numerous interviews and an assessment of comfortability for both the student and the family involved.

“We’re going to start connecting students and home providers this school year,” Cleland said of the program targeted within the Gresham-Barlow School District. “We have a couple in the works right now, so we need more — that way the student has more options of who to interview.”

Students involved are able to interview potential home providers, first on the phone and then in person, to see if they feel the home is a match for their needs.

Cleland said the program encourages students to interview as many families as possible, so they can ensure a good match.

“If they feel like, yes this is going to be a good fit, then we set up a mediation here (at East Metro) and we mediate the rental contract,” she said. “The rental contract is more like a contract between roommates because there’s no money being exchanged.”

Home providers can discuss things like house rules, consequences for breaking those rules, curfews, and travel to and from school.

“So we go through everything we can think of to mitigate any issues that may pop up while they’re living together,” Cleland said. “And there may still be issues that pop up when they’re living together, because they’re strangers.”

That’s why there’s a check in after two months — also known as the honeymoon period — to see if there are any other issues that come up and may need outside counsel.

“We tackle those issues to help them be successful,” she said.

The students enrolled in the program are not what Cleland said people may picture when they hear “homeless students.”

“They’re a student who’s on track to graduate or can become on track to graduate,” she said. “This particular group of kids are highly functional, doing well and are good kids in a situation not of their own making and they need a safe, secure and consistent space that they can go to so they can finish high school.”

The need is high, Cleland added, but that doesn’t mean they want to rush pairing.

“Because this is a voluntary process, we want to make sure the people filing out the paperwork in the end are really committed to something like this,” Cleland said. “So we’re not pushy. We want to get people interested in at least learning more. But as far as getting people to sign up as a home provider, we’re really careful at pushing them.”

Providers can also live in any area, not just restricted to the Gresham-Barlow School District.

“The kids are being referred by the Gresham-Barlow School District, but the home providers can live anywhere between here and Beaverton,” she said, which includes all of East Multnomah County and throughout Portland. “We might get people in North Portland that want to be home providers. If the kid is interested in commuting, they can chose that home provider.”

Those who have expressed interest range as well, from a single individual, to retired couples, to young couples with young children — and each have a different availability to offer to needy students.

“That’s up to the home provider to figure out what they want to do,” Cleland said. “If they only have a summer or a school year, call us and talk to us, because there might be a student who only needs that.”

With the school year quickly approaching, Cleland said any potential home provider should reach out, even if just to ask questions.

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