Oregon is best in U.S. for identifying, supporting homeless students

Medford, Ore. — Oregon is identifying and supporting homeless students better than any other state in the nation. That’s according to a new report by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness. The news is encouraging for organizations like Maslow Project, but staff say it’s also not that surprising.

“Oregon’s been really on top of the homeless student problem, since the very beginning,” Maslow Porject Executive Director, Mary Ferrell says, “since legislation was passed back in the 80’s.”

Homelessness is a reality 1 in 10 students face in southern Oregon, but non-profits like Maslow Project aim to ensure they’re not alone through that struggle.

“We make sure they have school clothes, and school supplies so that they can really just come to school ready to learn,” Ferrell says, “but that’s usually not enough and so a lot of our kids especially in high school are working with a case manager.”

The organization partners directly with local school districts to  identify homeless youth and connect them with services. They’ve been at it nearly a decade now, and they see their work paying off.

“About 70% of our seniors will graduate,” Ferrell says, “and the national average for homeless students is only 25%, so we know we’re doing better than the national average.”

That’s why Ferrell was not all that surprised when the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness ranked Oregon first in the nation for accountability for homeless students.

“We’re going beyond just the basics, but really helping them to have a meaningful school experience.”

Ferrell says it’s that type of wrap-around support that leads to long-term success.

“If we can remove those barriers then we can make sure they are in their seats and learning and graduating on time.”

The national study looked at how states use federal funds, implement programs, and provide support to homeless youth. In 4 out of 5 categories, Oregon was at the top. California ranked 22nd in the nation.

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