Dr. Russ Dondero and Eric Cannon, two Washington County homeless advocates, write in The Oregonian:
Whoever wrote the headline "Beaverton distorts homeless roll call" for the Dec. 4 PolitiFact.Oregon column by Janie Har engaged in their own "distortion" of the reality of homelessness.
Har correctly reported that Beaverton School District's headcount of 1,580 homeless students ranked it as No. 1 of all school districts in 2009-10. Sadly, the headline undercuts the message and facts of the issue.
A Beaverton City not a Beaverton School District press release erred in claiming that the Beaverton homeless student count was the "highest number ever recorded in Oregon." As Har points out this is not correct.
Har accurately informs readers that homelessness is a statewide problem in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Education estimates that there are at least 19,000 homeless students in Oregon from Portland to Medford, from Washington County to Klamath County.
It's too bad the headline is framed in a negative way and the "Truth-o-Meter" rating was a FALSE. This is classic "gotcha" journalism best left to judging election ads or candidate gaffes not serious public policy issues.
Readers who only notice the headlines might conclude from the title that homeless advocates are "cooking the books." Counting the homeless is very hard to do. The reality is that annual homeless counts are probably much higher.
Here's a partial quote from the Beaverton School District's response to the PolitiFact article:
"...We are concerned that people may see that headline and read no further. In the body of the article it is clear that the Beaverton School District's homeless numbers as reported to ODE are completely accurate. Unfortunately a representative from the city misunderstood the ODE data and stated in a press release that our number from last year, 2009-2010 was the highest ever reported in the state of Oregon, rather than in just Beaverton…"
Visit the Interfaith Committee on Homelessness of Washington County for additional information.
Russ and Eric, I should mention, are members of Forest Grove United Church of Christ (where I recently had the opportunity to preach). Dr. Dondero was also my advisor at Pacific University. Only grace explains why he still to speaks to me. :)