The Beaverton School District has the highest number of homeless students in the state. That's according to a Department of Education reports.
Information that's shining a light on the issue of teen homelessness in the suburbs.
The ODE said 1,522 students within the Beaverton School District are homeless. To put that into perspective, that's the equivalent of nearly the entire student body at Southridge High school.
A problem local advocates believe to be connected to the lack of affordable housing in the area.
"In Washington County, there aren't big group sites, it's teens carrying a tent and a sleeping bag to the next place the stay," Bridget Calfee of HomePlate Youth Services said. "It stays under the radar this way, it's not as visible as it is in the urban setting, so it's easy to miss."
Calfee is the executive director of HomePlate Youth Services in Beaverton. A nonprofit organization that supports teens experiencing homelessness or housing instability. In 2017 alone, she says they helped 450 youth.
"We do see youth that live on the street, but a majority couch surf, which means bouncing around from house to house."
A 2017 report from the Oregon Department of Education, reveals there are 2,359 homeless K-12 students in Washington County. 468 of those students are considered unaccompanied minors, which means a child is attending school, but not in physical custody of a parent or guardian.
HomePlate believes the number of homeless students in Washington County is actually closer to 2,393 based on data collected from local school districts.
"It's hard to watch," Calfee said. "Situations youth are in is unfathomable."
A big part of how HomePlate tries to help is through outreach.
"We walk around the streets of Washington County and try to meet young people where they're at literally," Lead Outreach Worker Bianetth Valdez said. "That means we go to transit centers, parks, libraries, anywhere where young people congregate."
"Sometimes, youth are hidden away behind schools and trails, places where they can hide and not be seen," she added.
Employees always walk in teams of two. They wear bright green backpacks as a way to let kids know who they are.
"We don't want to out anyone if they don't want to be associated with us in a public place, so we walk around and if we know someone we may say hi, but we don't approach them in a private place," Valdez said.
They'll reach out to anyone between the ages of 12 -24 to let them know about HomePlate's drop-in center just in case they need help or know someone who does. There, kids can eat a hot meal, shower and access other services they need to find stability.
"We see ourselves as resource brokers, we connect with them a continuum of services we refer to," Calfee said.
Staff also tries to connect kids with housing, but lately, they say it's more challenging than ever before.
"There are just less beds for youth. There's only one shelter in Hillsboro for youth in the whole county and that's only seven beds," Calfee said. "It seems like the situations of youth seems to be getting worse. Before the bouts of homeless were shorter, we used to get them into housing, but now because of a wait list people are unstable for much longer."
It's crisis both Calfee and Valdez attribute to a lack of resources for teens and affordable housing in the area.
"I see it being very critical in Washington County," Valdez said. "I'm constantly being reminded it is a problem because I'm going to youth and telling them 'here's a blanket, I hope you do good tonight because there isn't any options.'"
Outreach workers and other volunteers from across the area are gearing up for what they call a "Point in Time" count of homeless youth living in the area. That means they'll walk around looking to identify as many teens as they can to update those statistics from 2017.
That report is expected to be released later this year.
For more information about HomePlate and how to support their mission visit: www.homeplateyouth.org
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