Mentesana is the homeless liaison for the Beaverton School District. In city centers, the problem is obvious — and largely adult. In Beaverton and Hillsboro, Vancouver and Gresham, the more common story is a quieter one: In , people in families represented 28 percent of the homeless population in Multnomah County.
They represented almost half of all homeless people counted in Clark and Clackamas counties and a third of those in Washington County. Some of that is simple economics: As inner Portland grew more urbanized in feel and denser in nature, families looking for affordable houses and apartments were pushed out. The recession left more of them homeless or on the verge.
Then they find a family member to stay with during the school year. Where is my room? Where are we going to sleep tonight? Bus drivers notice when a child changes addresses, or when a one-child household suddenly becomes home to several families. In , schools in the Beaverton School District reported less than homeless students.
In , they had 1, In , that was up to 1, — larger than the entire student body at Beaverton High School. The number dropped to 1, in , partly because the state changed the way schools count homeless students. Through the recession, Beaverton consistently reported the most homeless students in the state — more than Portland Public Schools, the largest district in Oregon.
But even smaller suburban and outlying districts saw their percentage of homeless children jump: Canby, Centennial, Parkrose, Oregon Trail and David Douglas all reported that homeless students made up five percent or more of their enrollment at the height of the recession. Even more affluent, farther-flung districts felt an impact: The recession exposed giant gaps in the support system for people at risk of becoming homeless in suburbia: For example, in the last school year, Aloha High School reported almost twice as many homeless students as there are emergency shelter beds in all of Washington County.
Since the start of the recession, the Beaverton School District has served the largest number of homeless students in Oregon. One way parents, staff and administrators help: A weekly clothes closet for students, homeless or sheltered that includes jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, coats, underwear and socks. The closet is open to students in grades K on Wednesdays during the school year.
Students can visit twice a year. Those are whole families who lost their homes to foreclosures, teenage girls kicked out because they dared to date, kids whose parents simply disappeared because they were sentenced to prison, deported, or opted to abandon their children in favor of a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
This crisis cuts across grade levels and academic categories. A lack of well-paying jobs and affordable housing, particularly inexpensive units large enough for families and reasonably close to basic services such as bus lines, libraries and parks. They can offer stability, at least for six or seven hours a day. Research shows that mobility — moving from place to place, bouncing from school to school — is a big reason kids drop out. So school districts across the Portland region are banding together to keep homeless students in one place and make them feel as normal as possible.
Sometimes that involves big stuff: Buying a mass of bus tickets or even redrawing a school bus route to ensure that every child is picked up. Sometimes that involves the small things that can make a school experience feel special, such as prom tickets or soccer cleats. Beaverton administrators can help arrange child immunizations through the Washington County Health Department. They give students, including kids who are not homeless, clothes and winter coats.
Some children in suburban districts go home on Friday nights toting all the food their family will need over the weekend. She finally sound stability through the Second Home program, which pairs people with a room to spare with students who need a place to stay.
Her host family took her in just before she gave birth to baby Hannah. A friend picked her up and drove her to a homeless shelter. In the next two years, she would attend five schools and move 10 times. The odyssey is a lesson in just how few services exist for homeless families and children in Portland and its suburbs. She came from a deeply religious family and dreamed of a career abroad in mission work after college.
In the summer of , at a church youth group, she met Christian. At first, they could barely stand one another. Then they chatted on Facebook. The more her parents pressured her to avoid boys, she said, the closer she felt toward Christian — and the more she pushed back against their rules. I made some mistakes, absolutely.
But I'm happy now. It took a long time to say that, but I am. Her parents let her go. But that meant getting up at 4 a. Safe Place usually allows residents to stay for 90 days. When her time was up in February , she moved in with relatives in Clackamas County and transferred to Clackamas High School. She and Christian were still dating.
That fall, she got pregnant again. Last year, Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts reported 1, homeless students — defined by U.
Department of Education standards as kids living in a shelter, on the street, in a car, without adult supervision or doubled up with friends or relatives. In all of Washington County, there were just emergency shelter beds and transitional and permanent apartments.
Several years ago, during the height of the recession, Beaverton city and school leaders banded together with representatives from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon on a solution that requires little money but lots of kindness. The Second Home program pairs homeless teenagers with families willing to take them in, usually through high school graduation. Their attitude is that these are our kids, that we all play a role in their success or failure.
All but four have graduated or are on track to finish high school. Her story was different from most of the homeless students who go through Second Home — her parents remained her legal guardians and knew where she lived throughout her two years of bouncing from place to place. Still, she shared one thing with every kid Pratt has helped find shelter: She was scared, though she hid it better than most.
She was determined to make this work. Five days later, on March 6, , she gave birth to a baby girl, Hannah. Her hosts gave her parenting advice and made sure she attended her senior prom.
And they urged Christian to spend as much time as he could with Charlotte and their daughter, to the point of inviting him to move in as well. Charlotte graduated from Southridge last summer. She turned 18 in July, and in September moved in with Christian. They plan to wed during a family trip to Hawaii in March. She wants to go to college but will wait until Christian finishes his education and Hannah is a little older.
I can still do something great with my life. I still have potential, and now I have this great family, too. Yet the magnet myth is rooted in reality. Should you give to panhandlers? All rights reserved About Us. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Oregonian Media Group LLC.