The number of students experiencing homelessness hit another historic high for Lincoln County. During the 2018-19 school year 1112 children and students lacked stable and adequate housing at least at some point during the school year. At least 209 students were in the category of “unsheltered” as defined by the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Act. Other categories include living in shelters, and staying in motels and with other people due to economic hardship or loss of housing.
According to information released November 22 by the Oregon Department of Education, the total number of students facing homelessness has risen across the state. Lincoln County School District McKinney Vento & Foster Care Liaison and HELP Program Coordinator, Katey Townsend explains, “The numbers are more than data, they are each a child with a
different story that includes unstable or inadequate housing. Ultimately, there is not enough housing for all families and children in our community. As a community, we need resources to catch up with our students’ needs that includes more stable housing, emergency shelter and host homes for unaccompanied youth.”
Homeless students are defined by the McKinney-Vento Act as those who lack fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. A homeless family could live in an emergency shelter or
share housing with others due to loss of housing or economic hardship, stay at motels, or live in cars, parks, tents, trailers, or have substandard housing. The state report shows that 943 homeless students in kindergarten through 12th grade were enrolled in Lincoln County School District (LCSD) during the 2018-19 school year, compared to 825 the year before.
This accounts for 17% of Lincoln County’s student enrollment. In addition, there were 169 children ages 5 and under who faced homelessness. These children were not included in the state count. This brings the total homeless child count in Lincoln County to 1,112, including 137 unaccompanied minors.Lincoln County School District continues to rank in the top 10 school districts for highest numbers of homeless students. The recent data places LCSD in 5th place for the number of students experiencing homelessness, up from 9th place during the prior year.
Out of 198 school districts, Lincoln County has the highest number of students in the category of unsheltered. In Lincoln County, 209 students were considered unsheltered and the next highest was Beaverton School District with 109 in that category. Students considered
“unsheltered” under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act are “children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
The unsheltered definition extends to those that are in substandard housing. The Education
Department provides guidance on determining the substandard nature of a living situation and school district McKinney-Vento staff use this information to make case by case qualifications of students. Considerations are if the housing “lacks one of the fundamental utilities such as water, electricity, or heat; is infested with vermin or mold; lacks a basic functional part such as a working kitchen or a working toilet; or may present unreasonable dangers to adults, children, or persons with disabilities.”
The school district’s HELP program is designed to help all homeless students overcome barriers to school attendance and academic success. HELP stands for Homeless Education &
Literacy Project. Four HELP Centers are staffed and located in Lincoln City, Newport, Toledo and Waldport with the purpose of providing resources and educational assistance to homeless youth and their families. They receive assistance with immediate school enrollment, transportation, school fees, school meals, and navigating through other community and public resources.
The HELP Centers provide school supplies, clothing, shoes, hygiene and household items. It is with deep gratitude that we have generous community donations to fill in the gaps to address student needs. Some of the educational programs offered at the HELP Centers include an early childhood and parent program called “Learning is Fun Together” (LIFT), tutoring, life skills workshops, Job Opportunities for Youth (JOY) and family nights.
“Lincoln County has one of the highest rates of student homelessness in the state. We also have one of the most generous and caring communities that come together to support students. We need to continue to work on big picture solutions and getting more individuals connected with our work to support students through our programs and schools.” Townsend said.
Donations of time and money are always welcome. With the holidays just around the corner, the HELP program is soliciting donations of new pajamas, underwear and socks; and new
jackets. Donations are being accepted at all four HELP Centers. Online donations to the HELP Program are accepted at the following link and by selecting “Lincoln County District Office” and “HELP Program”: https://lincoln.k12.or.us/get-involved/donate/
HELP Center volunteers are needed to help deliver program activities and supplies to students throughout the school year. A volunteer training is being offered on Thursday, December 5th at 6pm at the NHS Boone Center. Contact Jutta Pearce for more information on volunteering or to RSVP. Jutta.Pearce@lincoln.k12.or.us or 541-574-9419.
Information and photo provided by LCSD