Homeless issue is troubling

By Observer editorial November 25, 2013 08:55 am

A story last week in this newspaper highlighted the fact that more than 18,000 kindergarten through 12th grade youth attending school in Oregon lived in some type of homeless condition during the last school year.

While the recent number listed for homeless students by the Oregon Department of Education was lower than 2011 to 2012 academic year the final tally is still surprising.

And troubling. Or least it should be to most Oregon voters.

Crystal Greene, the communications director for the Oregon Department of Education, said the drop in overall homeless numbers was “encouraging” but she was quick to point out that far more needs to be done on this issue in the future.

The homeless student problem appears to be linked — at least in part — to economic factors. The statewide recession cut a wide swath through families across Oregon and left many with few options. 

Greene mentioned that area school districts can do a lot to help with this challenge and they do. However, with limited resources, in the end, a particular school district is only going to be able to do so much. At some point, funding evaporates.

Yet the collective awareness of a community regarding this situation shouldn’t vanish. Data released by the DOE listed 117 students as homeless in Union County. Just over a 100 students may not seem like a lot but, in the end, it is a startling number and should give appointed and elected leaders — not to mention taxpayers — pause.

Greene said communities should step up and help districts with this issue. We agree. The problem isn’t an easy one to solve. Many of the factors that spark a homeless situation for a student may be beyond the scope of individual efforts. Yet a lot can be done by area communities. 

Putting together food relief efforts every Christmas season are consistently well within the realm of the possible in Union County. So it isn’t a very big leap to believe that a united community can — and frankly should — coordinate with local school districts to find a way to at least attempt to solve the homeless student problem at our local level.

Even one homeless student is one too many.