SALEM —This Thanksgiving holiday, nearly 22,000 Oregon students don’t have a place to call home, leaving them struggling behind their classmates and reducing their chances for success in the future according to the annual count of homeless children in the state’s school system released by the Oregon Department of Education last week. Only 60 percent of homeless students are on track to graduate, compared to 85% of students overall.
Since 2012, when ODE first started reporting this data, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of homeless students. While there was a small dip statewide in that number, it comes after years of increases and things continue to get even worse in rural Oregon.
“Oregon children continue to bear the brunt of our state’s housing crisis and it’s time for state lawmakers to take action,” says Alison McIntosh, Deputy Director, Policy & Communications for Neighborhood Partnerships. “No cause evictions and steep rent spikes are driving too many families out of their homes with no place to go.”
Beaverton has the most homeless students in the state with nearly 1,800 students adrift, which is just over 4 percent of enrollment. The children and families in the Beaverton School District are represented in the state House by Representatives Jeff Barker, Mitch Greenlick, Ken Helm, Sherri Malstrom and Brad Witt. They are represented in the Senate by Mark Hass, Betsy Johnson and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward.
Medford has the second highest number of homeless students in the state, even higher than more populated areas such as Portland, Salem and Eugene. These Medford children and families will be represented in the 2019 legislature by Rep. Kim Wallen and Sen. Jeff Golden. Overall, Jackson County has more than 2,200 homeless students.
“As state lawmakers celebrate with friends and family this week, with a secure roof over their head, we hope they will remember the 22,000 Oregon students who will be sleeping in cars, hotels, on couches and in shelters on Thursday night and pledge to take action for statewide tenant protections,” says Michelle Glass of the Rogue Action Center.
The Oregon coast also has a high rate of homeless students. There are double digit rates of homelessness in Lincoln County, Warrenton, Port Orford, and Reedsport. And a shocking 30 percent of students are homeless in the Mapleton School District, in western Lane County. Those families and children are represented in Salem by Rep. Caddie McKeown and Sen. Arnie Roblan.
Homelessness affects children today and in their future. Homelessness has a devastating impact on a student’s chance for success in school and in life as measured by academic performance and attendance. The data released shows homeless students are less than half as likely to meet or exceed standards in Math, half as likely for Science and dramatically less likely for English and Language Arts. They are also much less likely to attend school on a regular basis than their peers.
As investigated by the Oregonian earlier this year in the series “Reading, Writing and Evicted,” students churning through schools because of evictions and rent increases disrupts not only their lives, but the entire school. Schools with higher percentage children of color are particularly hard hit by displacement.
Statewide tenant protections will stop no cause evictions and rent spikes that force children and families onto the streets, into their cars, or hopping from couch to couch. Lawmakers must act in 2019. Families need protections and stability to stay housed, and students need homes to succeed in school.