New Shelter Plans to Combat Youth Homelessness

Reported by Jen Wright

In the 2017-18 school year, 20,545 students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools lived in homeless situations at some point, and the Newberg School District has identified 185 students in grades K-12 as homeless, or 3.5 percent of the total enrollment, according to the Newberg School District website.

Part of a solution to this problem is an overnight homeless shelter that may be coming soon to Newberg, for teens in the community. The shelter is part of the result of a 100-day challenge to end youth homelessness issued to Marion County in 2018 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

United Way, the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) and the Newberg School District are working together in an effort to ensure safe and consistent housing for teenaged youth in Newberg.

United Way is a nonprofit organization that specializes in bringing together partners and funding for projects, and they currently operate in nearly 1,800 communities in 40 countries and territories across the world, according to their website.

United Way and the MWVCAA partnered in 2018 to bring a youth shelter to Salem, Oregon, in a plan led by 18-year-old Raul Marquez. The project, titled “Taylor’s House,” has inspired another project: end homelessness in Yamhill County.

“[The plan] is a pretty audacious goal to achieve,” said Andrew Galen, the director of Strategic Initiatives for United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

United Way’s role is to fundraise for the project, purchase a building for the shelter and start renovations. Once those steps are completed, they will hand the project over to the MWVCAA.

“They’ve been saying for a decade that this was a need in the community,” Galen said. “The hard thing for them, all these years, is raising the capital and purchasing the building. And that sort of fundraising is something that United Way is positioned to do.”

United Way met in December with the new mayor of Newberg, Rick Rogers, and the Newberg School District to assess the specific needs of the community.

“We don’t want to say, ‘oh, this thing worked in Salem, we’re just going to plop it in Newberg’,” Galen said. “They’re very different places. We want to make sure if we’re working in Newberg it’s something that’s going to work well for the city and for the students it’s serving.”

“The thing about youth homelessness in general is that it’s not as visible as you might expect,” Galen said. “It’s sort of shocking to hear that there’s kids young as first grade who don’t have a safe place to go at night.”

“And the truth is that [homelessness has] a lot of different faces. It’s not necessarily just people panhandling on the street. There’s a lot of people who are couch-surfing and going from friend to friend, family to family who don’t have a permanent place to call home and struggle to find somewhere to go at night,” Galen said.

As United Way keeps moving forward on the project, fundraising is crucial to their success. There are currently no homeless shelters in Newberg. The nearest one is the Good Neighbor Center in Tigard over 13 miles away from Newberg.

Jessica DaughertyComment