New report guides district programs, support for families

Beaverton schools have the highest number of homeless students in the state, according to a new Department of Education report.

Beaverton schools had 1,809 students who were considered homeless this year enrolled in local schools. That’s about 4.62 percent of the district enrollment.

Portland schools had the next-highest number, with 1,447 homeless students enrolled.

Rob Saxton, deputy superintendent of public instruction, says the state had 20,370 students in K-12 public schools who were considered homeless during the 2011-12 school year. That number is down slightly from the 20,545 reported last school year.

“For the second year in a row, the number of Oregon students dealing with homelessness topped 20,000,” Saxton says. “These numbers are a sobering reminder of the very real impact our economic situation is having on our students and families.”

Only 40 of Oregon’s 197 school districts reported no homeless students during the 2011-12 school year.

Beaverton’s high number of homeless students takes into account children in families — or often on their own — who are living in shelters, transitional housing, motels, tents, trailers or with another family in one dwelling.

Each school district reports the number of homeless students to the state every school year, opening the door to services and programs for the students. Districts also have homeless liaisons who work with children and families through the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

“Our community’s holistic approach has created a circle of support that not only helps to quickly identify those in need, but has helped to expand social support resources as well,” said Lisa Mentesana, Beaverton School District’s homeless liaison. “It’s opened the door to philanthropic partnerships with the faith based community, nonprofits, civic organizations and many caring individuals who want to be a part of the solution. It allows the school district to focus on providing a stable, safe place for homeless children to acquire an education that will ultimately help them to escape a life of poverty.”

In addition to the more than 20,000 homeless students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools, more than 1,000 homeless preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) were identified with the assistance of Head Start and Oregon pre-kindergarten programs.

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