According to statistics recently released by the Oregon Department of Education, the number of homeless students in local school districts is staying fairly steady.
Oregon's latest count of homeless students in North Clackamas showed an uptick in 2018-19 from the previous year, 351 to 366 or 2.04% to 2.13% of the student body. NCSD Homeless Liaison Katie Ray said the latest increase is more in line with counts from 2015 and 2016.
"In the Portland area, there's been a housing crisis for years, and that's definitely had an effect on who can get into afforable housing," Ray said.
Ray conducts trainings with school secretaries so they know to send people to the Wichita Center if families are in need of basic services.
"We try to have a really low-barrier program, so people don't need a referral," she said.
The Second Home Program recently was started in partnership with Ecumenical Ministries and Clackamas County. Local hosts who have an extra bedroom can get matched with a student who is looking for housing.
According to the latest numbers from the state, homeless students in Gladstone showed a downward trend in 2018-19 from the previous year, 52 to 33 or 2.53% to 1.65% of the student body. Homeless students counted in Oregon City also showed a slight drop in 2018-19 from the previous year, 280 to 218 or 3.5% to 2.73% of the student body.
"Generally, the official number of homeless students grows throughout the school year as we learn more about new students," said Leslie Robinette, Gladstone School District's communications coordinator. "It's fairly steady from year to year, though the number could reflect completely different students."
Mary Ellen Winterhalter works to identify and support students in transition at each of the schools in the Oregon City district. Homeless liaisons work closely with students in the schools and with families that often are in crisis to steer them toward resources in the community that may help stabilize their living situations.
"We don't use the word 'homeless' when working with our families," Winterhalter said. "Our families are in transition with their housing, and it is our role to help their kids access and engage in school. Sometimes this means tracking down enrollment documents or setting up transportation, but mostly we try to provide for basic needs like free meals, school supplies and referrals to clothing. Every student deserves to go to school clean, fed and ready to learn."
Michael Clark of the Oregon City School District said an interesting metric to look into is the number of free and reduced price meal applications in school districts. Currently 42% of Gladstone kids qualify, meaning their family's income is less than three times the federal definition of poverty.
Gladstone is composed of about 60% renters, and rents have risen substantially, causing many residents to pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Gladstone's liaison for homeless students works with school counselors to identify homeless students and provide them with transportation to school from wherever they may be temporarily sheltered.
"We also provide them with school supplies, free school meals, access to the Clothes Closet and the volunteer-run Food Pantry," Robinette said. "We have family resource coordinators at the Gladstone Center for Children & Families who help these families as social service navigators, helping them connect with social services, the Oregon Health Plan, job services, low-income housing programs and other supports."
Across the state, 22,215 students were considered homeless at some point during the school year because they lacked "a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence." Under the guidelines of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, a student is considered homeless if he or she lives in an emergency shelter or transitional housing unit, shares housing with others due to loss of housing or economic hardship, or lives in hotels, substandard housing, tents or trailers.
In Gladstone, the number of homeless students is in constant flux given the situation of the folks involved.
"For example, they may be doubled up with friends or family, living temporarily in a hotel, living in their car, camping or couch surfing from friend's house to friend's house," Robinette said.
Family support centers
What: Gladstone's Food Pantry and Kids Clothes Closet partner with the Oregon Food Bank and Gladstone Ministerial Association, providing 60 families a week with free groceries, nutrition education and a supportive community.
The closet provides clothing and shoes for babies, kids and teens. All are welcome.
When: 3:30-5:30 p.m. Thursdays and from 10 a.m.-noon Saturdays.
Where: North side of the Gladstone High School campus off Nelson Lane.
What: Wichita's Food Pantry serves families who live within the boundary of the North Clackamas School District or who have students who attend NCSD.
The Clothes Closet is open to NCSD students only, or students enrolled in a pre-K program that partners with NCSD.
Hygiene items are provided to families with an enrolled NCSD student.
Where: 6031 S.E. King Road, Milwaukie
Food pantry: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday; visits are limited to once a month per person
Clothes closet: 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; visits are limited to four times each school year per person
Online: For a full list of needs, including hygiene items, visit nclack.k12.or.us/wichita/page/donations.
Donate: Drop off items at the Wichita Center from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, but furniture, bedding or household goods are not being accepted at this time.
What: If you or someone you know need clothing or school supplies, those items may be available in our Oregon City Resource Center/Clothes Closet.
When: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, September through May (excluding nonschool days).
Where: Barclay School, 817 12th St. Donations accepted until 3:30 p.m.
More: Oregon City Schools Homeless Student Fund accepts cash donations to help students with fees to participate in school sports and activities. Donations accepted at the district office at 1417 12th St., Oregon City.
What: Pioneer Pantry provides food for weekends and breaks to homeless and food insecure students in Oregon City. A referral program for use by administrators, counselors and staff is in place.
Where: Oregon City High School, 19761 Beavercreek Road
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.