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More Oregon students are homeless than last year, state says

Posted November 22

— More students in Oregon are homeless than the number tallied last year, a disturbing trend that has now gone on for three years, state education officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Education said 21,340 students, or 3.7 percent of the K-12 population in public schools, don't have a fixed and adequate nighttime residence.

Reacting to the report, the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition urged the Legislature to protect tenants at risk of losing their homes because of eviction and severe rent increases.

The number of homeless students increased by more than 1,100 from the previous year, the new report said.

Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall said rural communities have been hit hard, with nearly 1-in-7 students experiencing homelessness for part of the 2015-16 school year in his county.

"Our children should be thinking about their homework and playtime, and not worrying about where they will sleep at night," Hall said on Facebook. "We can do more to protect kids and families from experiencing homelessness in Oregon."

State law allows landlords to evict families at any time without stating a reason and prohibits local governments from enacting rent stabilization measures, the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition said. The United States Conference of Mayors has identified eviction as a leading cause of homelessness, especially for families with children, the coalition said.

The instability that homelessness causes often leads to school absences and falling behind, Marti Heard, homeless program liaison for Portland Public Schools, was quoted as saying by the coalition. That can jeopardize future college or career success, Heard said.

In some districts, 20 percent or more of their students count as homeless by the federal definition, the education department said. Unemployment and a lack of family-wage jobs and affordable housing in rural areas have contributed to the rise, it said.

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