PORTLAND, Ore. -- For about two years, Sabrina Ersland and her family struggled to find a stable home.
“We had a duplex we lived in,” said Ersland. But before she knew it, that duplex was sold.
“It was constantly trying to find someplace we could move to, someplace we could live,” said Ersland. “It's not necessarily a stable foundational home for yourself and your children when you're having to live with other families.”
But her kids found stability through Early Head Start and Head Start. Both are federal programs designed to help low-income families.
That kind of help is what contributed to Oregon being ranked number one in the country when it comes to identifying homeless kids and helping them succeed in school. The study was done by the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness.
“Unfortunately we are seeing an increase in our homeless student population,” said Leslie O’Dell, Director of Portland Public Schools’ Homeless Program.
O’Dell said every year teachers work hard to identify which students are homeless.
Staff check in on them and many are given backpacks with supplies, clothes, and even bus passes.
“Sometimes kids are traveling so far, they're in different places all over the city and they get to that one school where they have their relationships, where they know they're safe and they keep coming back,” said O’Dell.
About 2,000 students are homeless in the district. O’Dell said the number of homeless students has grown by about 100 since she stepped into her role in 2013.
But the support doesn’t stop when kids graduate from high school. After graduation, a letter is written to verify the student's homeless status, so the student can get better loans and continue their education.
As for Ersland, she said her kids are doing well. She is now working for Albina Head Start, and just received her masters degree in early childhood education.
Because she, her husband and kids got so much support when they needed it, Ersland is passing it on.
“I found my passion to try to help support and provide whatever I can to continue the growth of these children,” she said.