Open Meadow has been part of the greater Portland community for more than 40 years, but today the work we do feels more important than ever!
Last year, Oregon’s population of students experiencing homelessness reached its peak and, according to the Oregon Department of Education, more than 3,500 students in Portland area school districts alone are counted as “homeless.” As stated in The Oregonian, this staggering number of youth in unstable housing includes those living in cars, in shelters, on their own, or with relatives, while also pursuing an education. Under these stressful circumstances, students must overcome barriers in a pursuit for academic and personal success. In the public education system especially, homeless youth can struggle to find support, make connections, and engage in school.
Open Meadow has sought to serve and support all students, including those experiencing homelessness, since it was founded as a drop-in center for high-risk youth in 1971. Originally established in a downtown storefront, Open Meadow Learning Center fostered a community for Portland’s street youth. While the student population and Open Meadow’s programs have since evolved, today our mission and motives remain the same.
In fact, Open Meadow still serves an impressive number of youth living in homelessness. In the 2011-2012 school year, 19% of our middle school students and 16% of our high school students qualified as “homeless,” in contrast to the 3% of students in Portland Public Schools.
At Open Meadow, our community provides the stability and support necessary for students to find post-secondary success. The experience of homelessness is just one of many stories our students have to share, and unstable housing does not define the youth of Open Meadow. Despite these barriers, Open Meadow students are consistently improving their math and literacy skills, earning credits toward graduation, and accessing post-secondary education and employment opportunities!