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Breaking News! Religious Leaders Say Oregon Faces “Moral Crisis”

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%.

"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

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 chuck.currie@parkroseucc.org .

Sincerely,

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

homepage: homepage: http://www.chuckcurrie.com
phone: phone: 503-253-5457


I'm glad 19.Sep.2007 08:56

Working Class Mama

somebody is paying attention to this issue. Hopefully more will be done than just a letter to politicians. It was mostly the fact that I was homeless that drove me to drop out in 8th grade. When you're 13/14 and trying hard to get your basic necessities covered, school and homework takes up too much of your day. So you find yourself having to choose between them and when you're freezing or hungry because you didn't have time to get that stuff arranged for the day then school loses priority really quick. There's certainly no time whatsoever for homework. Despite being really smart and determined I fell hopelessly behind and gave up.

revolution 19.Sep.2007 11:34

theresa mitchell

If we can't have a revolution to stop bombing innocents abroad, could we at least have a revolution to stop the capitalists from forcing our children to be homeless?

Wealth should be limited to one million dollars property, one million income.

Corporations should lose their "personhood."

Capitalism should be outlawed and replaced with transparent cooperativism.

Assets of the capitalist parasites and their organizations should be immediately seized--including the trillions in overseas accounts.

Elections should be elections and not vote-spoiling, caging, racist Jim Crow frauds.

Anyone?

Revolution? 19.Sep.2007 12:28

Generation Betrayed

Yeah. I agree. We have a lot of crap thats wrong in this country, and the people need to start standing up to fix it, whether its the war or homeless children or economics or health care or the prison system and on and on. Ill support any of these causes and more. Maybe it will make the people feel some power they have long forgotten if they start standing up for an issue and gain some ground.

I just read in the paper a couple days ago that in 2008 Oregon is going to be extending some of the non-violent crimes with longer sentences for car thefts, drugs and a few other crimes. I have heard nothing about it from the community. You think people would be pissed and care about these issues.