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Homeless students on the rise on High Desert

By Femi Abebefe
Published On: Dec 10 2013 09:18:10 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 10 2013 10:40:35 PM CST

Culver School District is the second highest district for population of homeless students. NewsChannel 21's Femi Abebefe reports on what the district is doing to combat it.

CULVER, Ore. -

Statewide, the number of students that don't have a home is decreasing, but the numbers are still high here on the High Desert.

One district facing shocking numbers is Culver, where 18 percent of its students don’t have a place to call home. That's the second-highest homeless population of any district in the state.

“Instead of being on my own, I feel like the structure makes me go to school and do the things that I need, because I have people here who are helping me and giving me that guidance,” homeless student Colleen McCown said Tuesdasy.

McCown has been through a lot of change for a 20-year old. She’s been a resident of the Cascade Youth and Family Center (otherwise known as ‘The Loft’) three different times because she was addicted to drugs and alcohol as a teen.

She’s also an example of homeless youth in Central Oregon, just trying to get an education, many of whom live in Culver.

District Superintendent Stefanie Garber said the tight-knit community helps them look after students in similar situations.

“We really carry the philosophy of, whatever it takes to give our students the full education,” Garber said.

The district's homeless liaison, Darlene Urbach ,said because of a new grant and City Hall, they've been able to help students in need.

“Tons and tons of kids need shoes, coats, socks and clothing, and that's the kind of stuff people have been donating," Urback said. "And as soon as I get it, I try to find a home for it."

Every fall, district employees are trained on the issues of homelessness, which allows them to have an open dialogue with parents.

“Sometimes it's the grownups who know all the nuances about the situation, but luckily, the children have incredible hearts, and they show up and do their jobs,” Garber said.

With all the chaos in her teenage years, McCown feels it helped shape her into the person she is today.

“I feel like going through all the stuff I went through, and knowing what I do now, I will succeed,” McCown said.

Once McCown gets her GED, she hopes to become a veterinary technician or dental hygienist.

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