Keeping a Routine: Homeless Kids Go to School

Nov 27, 2013

Last year, more than 18 thousand Oregon students were homeless at some time during the school year.
The State Department of Education released its annual homeless count of K-12 students last week. KLCC's Rachael McDonald met with a woman who's homeless and has 4 kids in school.

Jennifer Brown and her four children (one of the twin boys is hiding) at First Place Family Center in Eugene.
Credit Rachael McDonald

Brown: "Hi guys, welcome home…"

Jennifer Brown meets her twin boys when they get off the school bus outside the 1st Place Family Center in Eugene. Logan and Luke attend kindergarten at Edison Elementary.

Brown and her family moved here from Coos Bay 4 months ago.  They're staying in family shelter through St. Vincent de Paul. Her daughters, ages 8 and 9, also go to Edison. The family sleeps in a church each night.

Brown: "My oldest daughter did say something the other day about showing up in a church van. She said that was kind of, it was kind of awkward, but, for the most part, they know that our situation isn't permanent and that we just got to deal with what we've got to deal with."

Brown and her kids get help with the logistics of school from Deborah Dailey.

Dailey: "I'm the McKinney-Vento coordinator for the Eugene 4j School District. I support and advocate for students who are in temporary or transitional housing situations or non-housing situations."

Dailey says her job is to help homeless students stay in school. Dailey also keeps a count of how many students in the 4j district are homeless. She says by the end of last year the number was 775, about 4 and a half percent of total enrollment.

Dailey: "This year, I have already identified 400 students. I don't know if that means there's a trend upwards."

Dailey finds out about many homeless students by referrals from teachers, councilors, and other school staff.

Jennifer Brown is hopeful she'll find a job in retail soon.

Brown: "I've applied to most retail places thinking that they're hiring holiday help and I have yet to… I mean I had an interview at Target and it didn’t work out. So I'm not going to give up, but I'm going to keep trying, you know."

Brown and her family will be having Thanksgiving dinner at the church where they're staying.  She's hoping they'll be in their own home by Christmas.