According to information released Nov. 15 by the Oregon Department of Education, Lincoln County School District ranks 7th in the State for the number of students experiencing unstable and transitional housing during the 2016-17 school year. Nearly 12% of the student population in Lincoln County fall under the McKinney-Vento Act’s federal homeless definition lacking a “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence”.
Four federally defined categories of living situations that fall under the McKinney-Vento Act:
1) Doubled up due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reasons.
2) Motel/hotel due to lack of alternative, adequate accommodations.
3) Emergency or transitional shelter.
4) Unsheltered includes living in cars, campgrounds, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, trailer parks, bus or train stations, or public or private place that is not designed for humans to live, due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
The HELP Program of Lincoln County School District provides the outreach and support to students in these situations. “We are getting away from using the term homeless because that conjures up a negative stigma of students in our community. These students are without a home to call their own, and too many are in that situation due to the lack of affordable housing, seasonal jobs, and various other factors that are outside the control of the students we serve. Our goal is to keep provide a stable school experience, connect families with resources, and provide equal access to education despite various barriers that come with unstable housing. School stability is the heart of the McKinney-Vento Act,” shared Katey Townsend, McKinney-Vento Liaison and HELP Program Coordinator for Lincoln County School District.
Facts & Figures:
For nearly the last decade, Lincoln County School District has ranked in the top 10 in Oregon for students experiencing homelessness. The State report shows that 22,541 students in Oregon’s K-12 schools were in this category during 2016-17. Lincoln County had 647 students in K-12 with unstable housing and 147 children ages birth to preschool, with an overall 794 children. Included in that number are 96 students that were unaccompanied meaning that they experienced unstable housing without the supervision of a parent/guardian.
27% of Lincoln County’s students were in “unsheltered” living situations compared to the Oregon at 11%. Locally, many students and families are staying in cars, campgrounds, and substandard housing including buildings with mold, infestations or lacking utilities. In South County, 57 or 40% of the McKinney-Vento eligible students were in unsheltered living situations.
Lincoln County School District saw a dip in the number of students experiencing homelessness during the 2016-17 school year. The number went from 970, a historic high, in 2015-16 to 794 this last school year. Some of the reasons for the decrease could be due to fewer families self-identifying due to a change in District’s student residency form at registration and several staff changes. Additionally, the harsh winter of 2017 made it treacherous to stay in campgrounds and cars. The HELP Program staff do a lot of outreach to campgrounds, shelters, laundry mats, service agencies and the schools to find families that could use services, however, not all students are identified.
HELP is Available: HELP Centers are staffed and located in Lincoln City, Newport, Toledo and Waldport with the purpose of providing resources and educational assistance to youth and their families with unstable and transitional housing. They receive assistance with immediate school enrollment, transportation, school fees, and navigating through other community and public resources.
The HELP Centers provide school supplies, clothing, shoes, hygiene items and blankets, thanks to generous community donations.
Some of the educational programs offered at the HELP Centers and in coordination with community partners include an early childhood and parent program called “Learning is Fun Together” (LIFT), tutoring, a high school program “Job Opportunities for Youth” (JOY), and “Read and Feeds” – community meals with a focus on literacy.
“We are so thankful for our volunteers and supporters that multiply our efforts to serve homeless children,” Townsend said.
How you can help: Donations of time and money are always welcome.
Second Home of Lincoln County is in need to home providers to house youth ages 16 and older while they finish their education. Lincoln County does not have a youth shelter, so this program is vital in providing a home for students in their community. This program is a partnership with Lincoln County School District and Lincoln County Dispute Resolution.
With Christmas just around the corner, the HELP program is soliciting donations of new pajamas, underwear and socks, and new or good condition jackets. This may not be as “fun” as a toy drive but would be gratefully appreciated by families. Donations are being accepted at all four HELP Centers and the LCSD District Office in Newport.
Anyone interested in learning more about the HELP Program may call their local HELP Center: Lincoln City, 541-996-4878; Newport, 541-574-5824; Toledo, 541-4357; and Waldport, 541-563-8584.
Information provided by LCSD