"No child should be homeless in a nation as rich as ours." - Oregon Religious Leaders
Today religious leaders from every corner of Oregon wrote to Governor Ted Kulongoski, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and U.S. Senator Gordon Smith asking that both the federal and state government do more to address the growing number of homeless students in Oregon seeking an education.
A report issued this month by the state Department of Education documented that Oregon schools served over 15,000 homeless students at the same time that the federal government cut funding to support this population group by 10%.
"The fact that over 15,000 children were homeless in Oregon during the last school year is a moral scandal," wrote the religious leaders. "We are writing to urge both the federal and state governments to increase funding for this vulnerable population."
The religious leaders noted in their letter the importance of public school and rejected all calls to segregate homeless students outside of the mainstream school system. They also expressed support for "economic policies that help lift people out of poverty" and noted their opposition to the "present policies that have led to increased poverty in our nation."
"The needs of homeless children and families have been largely forgotten by politicians at every level of government," wrote the nearly 30 clergy and other religious leaders from across the state. Copies of the letter are being forwarded on to other statewide elected officials and local city and county officials as well.
"Current efforts to address the issue of 'chronic homelessness' in downtown city centers, although important in their own right, have had the consequence of obscuring the issues faced by children and their families," say the signers of the letter
September 19, 2007 SENT BY FAX
Governor Ted Kulongoski, 160 State Capitol 900 Court Street. Salem, Oregon 97301-4047
The Honorable Ron Wyden, United States Senate, 223 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 20510-3703
The Honorable Gordon Smith, United States Senate, 404 Russell Building, Washington, DC 20510
Dear Governor Kulongoski, Senator Wyden and Senator Smith:
This past week the Oregon Department of Education announced that public schools in Oregon educated over 15,000 homeless children. At the same time, federal funding to support the education of homeless children in our state fell 10%. We are writing to urge both the federal and state governments to increase funding for this vulnerable population.
As religious leaders, we care deeply about this issue. Our traditions teach that justice for those living in poverty is of paramount concern. Churches, temples and mosques across Oregon are involved in the fight to end homelessness.
The fact that over 15,000 children were homeless in Oregon during the last school year is a moral scandal. No child should be homeless in a nation as rich as ours. We support efforts to fully integrate homeless students into the public school system where they can receive all the benefits of a public education and oppose segregating homeless children into separate schools. Separate is never equal.
Furthermore, we call on the federal and state government to do more to address the root causes of homelessness in our society. We support economic policies that help lift people out of poverty and oppose the present policies that have led to increased poverty in our nation. The needs of homeless children and families have been largely forgotten by politicians at every level of government. Current efforts to address the issue of "chronic homelessness" in downtown city centers, although important in their own right, have had the consequence of obscuring the issues faced by children and their families.
Ensuring that public schools have the funding they need to meet the issues faced by homeless children is a step we should all be able to agree on.
We can be contacted through Rev. Chuck Currie at 503-253-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Rev. Chuck Currie, Interim Minister, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, Portland
The Rev. Dr. Arvin R. Luchs, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Portland
The Reverend Stephen Schafroth, Deacon, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, The Dalles
The Rev. Dr. Daniel E. H. Bryant, Senior Minister, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Eugene
Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield, P'nai Or of Portland, Oregon
Mr. David Leslie, Executive Director, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon
Ms. Stephanie Tama-Sweet, Executive Director, Oregon Center for Christian Values
The Rev. Karl Vercouteren, Pastor, United Church of Christ of The Dalles, Oregon
The Rev. Jeffrey D. Barton, Pastor, Lake Oswego United Church of Christ
Mr. Eric Canon, Chair, Interfaith Committee on Homelessness, Forest Grove
Denise Anderson, Director of Mission and Pastoral Services, Providence Milwaukie Hospital
The Rev. Mark Knutson, Pastor, Augustana Lutheran Church, Portland
The Rev. Peg Lofsvold, Associate Pastor, Lake Oswego United Methodist Church
The Rev. Patricia F. Berger, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Gresham
The Rev. Dr. Leland E. Hunefeld, Pastor, Tigard United Methodist Church
Pastor Matthew Eagan, Calvary Lutheran Church, Hillsboro
The Rev. Diane Dulin, Pastor, First Congregational United Church of Christ of Hillsboro
The Rev. Joan B. Stoneking, United Church of Christ minister, Hillsboro
The Rev. Don Barnhart, Pastor, Oak Grove United Methodist Church
Dr. Rex Hagans, Lay Member, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Public Policy Advocacy Committee
The Rev. Dr. Lowell Greathouse, Minister of Discipleship, First United Methodist Church, Portland
The Rev. Ryan J. Lambert, Associate Pastor, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Corvallis
The Rev. Gail McDougle, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Salem
Ms. Blair Loudat, Council Moderator, Parkrose Community United Church of Christ, Portland
Pastor Timothy and Pastor Elizabeth Winslea, Co-pastors, Lincoln Street and Sunnyside United Methodist Churches, Portland
The Rev. Susan Leo, Minister, Bridgeport United Church of Christ, Portland
The Rev Pamela Shepherd, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Ashland
Ms. Cat Willett, Office of Justice and Peace , Campaign for Human Development . Archdiocese of Portland
Titles used for identification purpose only
CC: Oregon School Superintendent Susan Castillo Oregon's U.S. House Delegation Regional and local elected officials