The statistics are shocking but they don’t tell it all. Officially Beaverton has the highest number of homeless students in the state of Oregon again, for the sixth year in a row. That number is calculated by the high schools reporting on their own student body and collectively that number is estimated right now to be 2,754 in the Beaverton School District.
But that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The numbers collected from the high schools assumes all students experiencing housing instability have let someone at the high school know about it. The number also doesn’t count kids who have stopped going to school and it doesn’t count homeless young adults from 18 to 24.
Youth homelessness wears a lot of different faces. At one end of the spectrum there are kids who genuinely sleep on the streets and have nowhere else to go and, on the other end of the spectrum, there are kids who still have connections to family but for some reason can’t live there all the time. In between there are kids who are couch surfing and others who have some resources but not enough to have food or housing security.
HomePlate is an organization that tries to fill in the gaps. “We meet them where they are,” says Bridget Calfee, HomePlate’s founder and executive director. “Part of our model is having youth direct our programming. They tell us what they need as opposed to us as adults telling what we think they need.”
HomePlate is the only nonprofit in Washington County offering drop in centers and street outreach to our community’s homeless children and young adults. That means that HomePlate helps kids from 12 to 24 get food, medical care, job training and referrals,
clothing and hygiene items, education and a safe social environment away from the dangers that life on the streets involves They provide a space where kids can go to hang out but they also send outreach workers to parks, transit stations, anywhere kids hang out to offer them things like socks or bus tickets.
They have been helping kids since 2005 and have, through the generosity and kindness of community members, been able to grow and expand their services throughout the county. Beyond just socks, toothbrushes and bus tickets, HomePlate tries to provide gateways to housing, jobs and education.
“We go to where youth congregate,” says Calfee,“We do outreach in Forest Grove, we have a worker in Tigard and one in Aloha. We have drop-in centers in Hillsboro and in Beaverton. We’re going to open a drop in center in Aloha later this month.”
And here, dear friends, is where you come in. HomePlate has been vigorously raising money to purchase a Beaverton headquarters instead of renting space. Through a combination of government and corporate grants, gifts from individuals and money raised from special events HomePlate is edging ever closer to their 5.2 million dollar goal that will allow them to purchase the property. Now the public part of the capital campaign begins and HomePlate will ask the community to stand with them through a variety of fundraising efforts including special events.
One of those special events is coming up April 30 and May 1. I Sing, a community choir group with an international reputation is putting on a concert to raise money for HomePlate at Beaverton’s latest cultural addition, the Patricia Resers Center. The tickets are a mere $5 and 100% of the proceeds will go to the organization’s capital campaign. The Times did a great article on this event, take a look here.
But that isn’t all you can do to help. Calfee says they need people to help serve meals, for i
nstance. “Dinner service is often the first way that people get to know HomePlate and our young people,” she says, “from there they can see what other opportunities are available.”
If time isn’t something that you have available, perhaps you could donate some of the things that they need. The website, homeplateyouth.org, has a list of their top needs each month.
“Anything that gets donated,” says Calfee, “we will give to some youth who need it,.”
You can employ youth to watch your dog at the Beaverton’s farmers market in the Sit and Stay program. You can volunteer your services, you can give practical items, you can attend fundraising events like I Sing at the Resers. But, in addition to those things, you can, if you are able, give money. The program has a monthly giving program but welcomes one time donations as well. Calfee encourages people who want to to send them a check through the mail or make a credit card donation through the website.