They Are Filled With Love…

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It was Valentines day seven years ago when the first 12 backpacks were taken to a small organization in Grants Pass called LIFT, the only group serving homeless teens here in the winter of 2011. Our Unitarian Universalist’s Fellowship had been collecting food and necessities for this group for some time, but our small team wanted to do something more to help.

We pooled our own personal resources and came up with enough to fill those 12 new backpacks with things we thought would be useful as well as comforting and fun; a warm blanket, socks, rain poncho, bowl and spoon and fork, hygiene and first aid kits, drawing paper and drawing pencils and a frisbee were some of the things we included.

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Every three months we got together and filled 12 more packs. The August pack included school supplies.

Not long into the first year LIFT lost it’s funding. Most of the kids we were serving were trying to stay in school, so that was where we turned our focus. After getting the enthusiastic go ahead from the high schools we contacted, we began delivering our packs directly to them to give out to students. The stories the counselors told us were touching and the thank you notes the kids sent were truly heart warming and poignant and kept us motivated to continue.

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Seven years and nearly 600 backpacks later – the need is still there. We have gone from filling 48 packs a year to 100 this year. The project now serves 16 high schools, alternative schools, Middle schools including one charter school in Wolf Creek, as well as the Maslow Project and Joe’s Place.

And as with all such volunteer projects we always need more money and people power. If you would like to get involved in any way, please contact us at info@homelessteenbackpacks.org. We would love to hear from you!

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“This is a REALLY epic thing you are doing and hope you can keep it up…”

“What was given in my bag will help me continue my life with less stress.
Knowing that some of the little things are taken care of almost makes me cry.”

Oregon’s Homeless Student Population Rises For Third Year In A Row

oregonhomelessteenstatisticsMore than 21,000 Oregon public school students are homeless.

Oregon Dept. of Education

This article is written by NOV 23, 2016 and is courtesy of IJPR.org

The number of public school students in Oregon considered homeless has increased for the third year in a row. That’s according to an annual report released by the state Department of Education.

More than 21,000 students — nearly 4 percent of the student population in Oregon public schools — are homeless. The vast majority of students who qualify as homeless do have some sort of shelter at night, most often shared or temporary housing arrangements that aren’t considered stable.

But Marti Heard, homeless program liaison for Portland Public Schools, said just because they’re not sleeping outside doesn’t mean there’s not an impact.

“If you’re staying someplace where the utility is off, you may not be warm enough, you may not have light for studying,” she said. “So these students are really at risk for falling behind academically.”

The percentage of homeless students reached double digits in 18 Oregon school districts. While those tended to be in rural areas where a small fluctuation can dramatically shift the percentage, a handful of larger districts had double-digit percentages of homeless students, including Lincoln County SD, Central Point SD in Jackson County, and Sweet Home SD in Linn County.

The Oregon Department of Education report blames a lack of affordable housing statewide for the increasing numbers.

“We know that students dealing with difficult life circumstances have a much harder time in the classroom,” Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor said in a statement. “Our goal is to make the school environment as stable as possible for homeless students.”

The numbers included in the new report reflect the student homeless population in the 2015-16 academic year.

Copyright 2016 NWNews. To see more, visit NWNews.

Unitarians Prepare Backpacks

 

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Samantha Borngasser, Parker Scaroni and Sophia Paulson organize school supplies for the September distribution of backpacks to area schools.

September 3, 2016

Article from the Grants Pass Daily Courier:

The Homeless Backpack Project, an affinity group of the Unitarian Universalists of Grants Pass, is distributing 34 backpacks* to homeless teens in Josephine County this month.

More than 80 backpacks will be distributed throughout the school year, with help from a $5,500 grant from the Cow Creek Foundation.

Each backpack contains school supplies such as binders, paper, pencils and pens, and a calculator; as well as socks, a blanket, towel, washcloth, a hygiene kit, plus a bowl, spoon, cup and snacks, rain poncho, space blanket and other items.

The backpacks are distributed to all the high school and middle schools in the Grants Pass and Three Rivers school districts plus a couple of locations where homeless teens not in school can get access, such as Joe’s Place.

“We hope that the backpacks we provide help bring some order to their lives and a little joy,” says Karen Rogers with the Unitarian church.

The public can help support the project by registering their Fred Meyer Rewards card with the backpack project or donating online through the project website,  homelessteenbackpacks.org.

In addition, any donations to the Unitarian Universalists of Grants Pass marked “backpack” will go directly to the project.

The project has given out more than 400 backpacks since it began in 2011.

*Instead of the 22 backpacks listed in the article below there were requests for 34 packs, which is what were distributed this month.

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Recent Feedback from Backpack Recipient

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Students are given the opportunity to let us know what they like about the supplies we provide, and to make suggestions for items they think might be helpful. A questionnaire with a stamped addressed envelope is included in each pack so they can let us know what they think.

The following quote is feedback we just received from one of our backpack recipients:

–“I don’t live with my mother as she is unable to care for me, so this really helps me continue to be successful with my life and education.”

Sock Drive A Success

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81 pairs of warm winter socks were donated by members of the Grants Pass Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for our Homeless Teen Backpack Project! Thanks, UU’s – for your wonderful generosity!  They are so stylish looking that they are going to do nice things for the self esteem of the kids that receive them in their new backpacks.

22 Backpacks Filled and Delivered in December

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We just finished packing another 22 backpacks – this time we were able to add hand knit hats and warm gloves and the wonderful warm socks that were collected a couple weeks ago. We also added a cup with packets of cocoa and oatmeal, a jar of peanut butter and a couple candy canes as a Christmas treat! We have been getting some wonderful donations, too. Thank you so much for your support!