5:53 p.m. PST November 22, 2016
For the third year in a row, Oregon’s population of homeless students is up from the previous year, reaching a level now exceeding that seen during the recession.
New data collected by the Oregon Department of Education shows 21,340 students, or 3.7 percent of the public school’s population, “lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”
That 3.7 percent refers to students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Another 1,929 children in pre-K programs also fall under this definition.
Salem specifically saw high numbers of students experiencing homelessness, with 1,120 students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools experiencing homelessness for part of the 2015-16 school year, according to the data.
In the Salem-Keizer School District, about 61 percent of the nearly 42,000 students in the district are considered to be living in poverty as of October 2016. This percentage is up from 58 percent the same time last year.
While some of the largest school districts in the state, including Salem-Keizer, had the highest numbers of homeless students, the impact is also felt in rural areas.
There are districts where 20 percent or more of their students count as homeless by the federal definition.
A number of factors influence rural school students differently, including higher unemployment rates, lack of family-wage jobs and not enough affordable housing in rural areas.
Oregon received $613,967 in federal McKinney-Vento Act funds in 2015-16 to serve homeless students, according to the Oregon Department of Education. More than 75 percent of this amount went to districts in the form of grants.
The money helps offset the costs of school transportation and other services for homeless students.
“We know that students dealing with difficult life circumstances have a much harder time in the classroom,” Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said in a statement.
“Our goal is to make the school environment as stable as possible for homeless students through the hard work of school district homeless liaisons and their partners, who provide direct services to homeless families and youths in communities throughout the state,” he said.
Homeless student count
District, Number of students, Percentage of total enrollment
- Central, 81 students, 2.49 percent
- Dallas, 60 students, 1.82 percent
- Falls City, 35 students, 19.66 percent
- Gervais, 71 students, 6.65 percent
- Jefferson, 59 students, 6.61 percent
- North Marion, 21 students, 1.06 percent
- North Santiam, 69 students, 3.01 percent
- Salem-Keizer, 1,120 students, 2.73 percent
- Silver Falls, 93 students, 2.42 percent
- Woodburn, 210 students, 3.67 percent