Recently the Oregon Dept. of Education announced there were 18,059 homeless children enrolled in Oregon's public schools last year (2008/09).That number was up 14% from the previous year, and it represents an increase of 122% since 2003/04. It is only one of many indicators that childhood and family homelessness are increasing in Oregon and nationwide.
In response to the rapid rise in childhood and family homelessness, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is convening a new interfaith project on childhood homelessness. Planning is underway for a statewide Interfaith Summit on Homeless Children, Youth and Families, to be held in May or June of this year, and there will be other activities before and after the Summit.
At the summit we plan to bring together people of many faiths with representatives of non-profit and government agencies who have expertise on childhood and family homelessenss. Our primary goal is to focus attention on this problem and generate a new level of action and advocacy in response to it.
Many of Oregon's congregations and people of faith are already deeply involved in responding to homelessness. Our aims are to spread that involvement more broadly and to provide an opportunity for coordinated statewide advocacy on behalf of homeless children and families.
More details follow below. Here are some ways to become involved:
Might your congregation or other organization be willing to co-sponsor theInterfaith Summit on Homeless Children, Youth and Families? If so, let us know and we'll send you a sponsorship form and informational flyer. (Though we are encouraging sponsors to make a donation in support of this effort, no donation is required -- what we really want is your good name and your participation in helping to get the word out about this project and the Summit.)
Do you want to be kept informed of other upcoming meetings and events related to this project? Again, just let us know in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is your congregation or organization already providing services or engaged in advocacy for homeless families? Please tell us what you are doing -- We are beginning to put together a statewide directory of what churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are already doing to help homeless individuals and families.
Do you have comments on what is most needed, in your community, or statewide, to help homeless children and families, or suggestions for what a legisative agenda should focus on -- please send those as well, along with any other comments you think may be helpful.
Do you know individuals or organizations that we should be in touch with? Please send those names!
We are focusing on three goals:
Prevention of childhood, youth, and family homelessness.
Rapid Re-housing, shelter, and services - Getting currently homeless families off the streets and into housing with the supportive services they need to stay housed, and providing them with food, shelter and other basic services while they remain homeless.
Education of homeless children and youth - Improving the education of homeless children and youth, by making sure public schools have adequate funding for outreach programs and supportive services.
This project and the planned Summit are designed to:
increase public awareness and concern about homeless children and families,
deepen the engagement of Oregon's religious communitiesin providing services and in advocacy for homeless children and families, and provide members of the faith community with the knowledge and tools they need to be effective in this work,and,
develop and support a legislative agenda for homeless children and families for the 2011 session of the Oregon legislature (as well as support efforts in Congress to increase funding and improve policies related to homeless families and children).
We hope you will join us in this work, and that you will feel free to call or email with any questions or suggestions you may have.
(Note: As a member of the public policy committee for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, I am happy to answer any questions about this project and to help you connect with staff. I can be reached email@example.com or 971-322-7920. - Rev. Chuck Currie)