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Homeless public school students increased throughout the decade, both in Portland and beyond.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Jay'Veontae Hudsonan, an incoming senior at Parkrose High School, is one of the roughly 22,500 K-12 students affected by unsteady living conditions.Just like the rest of the country, Portland found itself recovering from a recession at the beginning of the decade. By 2015, the economy had improved, but thousands of Portlanders were feeling a new pinch: the housing market.

Gentrification took hold in some areas and rents increased steadily, pushing many families out and creating a stark statistic among Portland's children.

In the 2016-17 school year, the Oregon Department of Education reported 1,509 students in Portland were homeless. Statewide, that number was 22,541, according to department data.

The numbers included children whose families were sharing housing, living in temporary housing or living in sub-standard housing.

State officials said the numbers reflected better reporting of the number of homeless students. But they also noted that, more than anything, the numbers indicated "a lack of affordable housing and not enough family-wage jobs."

"Portland was still definitely seeing the effects of the recession ... but we also had families who had lost jobs and were going into foreclosure," said Marti Heard, program lead of the McKinney-Vento homeless program at Portland Public Schools.

The good news? Reports showed that by 2017, youths were better off than they had been in 2010. Additional numbers indicate Portland has fewer children living in poverty than it did early on in the decade, though the number of homeless students still exceeds 1,000.

"The numbers are still painfully high," Heard said.

While the district currently doesn't have as many families of students losing their homes to foreclosure, gentrification and high rents are still leaving many of Portland's shelters with waitlists.

Heard said the district is seeing more families in need of housing assistance, meaning they have a place to live but can't afford the monthly costs.

During the 2018-19 school year, Portland Public Schools had 1,217 homeless students — about 2.5% of its student enrollment — according to the state Education Department. About 39% of the district's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.


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