More and more kids homeless in Oregon

More and more kids homeless in Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. -- A $2,500 a month salary used to put a roof over the heads of Katrina Burman and her teenage son Dillon.

"My husband has been on layoff for about 5 months," Burman said.

Now living on just more than $600 in unemployment, the family is seeking refuge in Eugene's First Place Family Center.

"They've worked hard, they've saved their money, they've paid their taxes," said William Wise, the center's director, "and all of a sudden, through really no fault of their own, the rug's been pulled out from under them."

Nationwide, one in 50 children is homeless in the U.S., according to a report released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness. Oregon is in the top 10 nationally for homeless children: At least 23,000 kids were homeless for at least one night, according to data analyzed from 2005 to 2006.

The First Place Family Center provides basic necessities for families in need, like food, shelter, job assistance and even pre-school in Lane County. It costs $550,000 per year to run the facility- over $300,000 comes from donors. Wise said as times get tougher, fewer people are able to donate, but the need for the services from the center becomes even greater. The organization could become more important than ever by this summer.

"We're expecting a big increase in numbers as unemployment benefits start running out," Wise said.

The Eugene School District has already seen a 31 percent  increase: 1,600 students are considered homeless this year, up from 1,200 students last year.

As the stress of unemployment weighs on parents, experts say kids pick up and mirror that stress in the classroom.

"There's self-esteem problems when this happens," said Kasey White, homeless liason with the Eugene School District. "There's a lot of shame around homelessness."

That's why each school district in Oregon is required to have a homeless liaison who can provide support in hopes of bringing a little bit of stability to an otherwise rocky start in life.

The Eugene School District will also soon launch a program so homeless kids can get food on the weekends when they're not at school. | More about Eugene School District's homeless student programs