St. Vincent de Paul moves forward with housing project for homeless high school students

The future is looking brighter for homeless high school students now that St. Vincent de Paul can move forward with plans to transform and old church into a housing structure for teens. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. – Monday night, the Eugene City Council approved the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s application to turn an old church into a place for teens. In a year, the building will provide stable housing to several homeless high school students.

Not every high school student has a stable place to study, good light, nightly dinners or access to transportation to get to school. In Eugene, there are several teens without homes.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society hopes to change this situation for many.

“Give them a home, give them support, you'll see them get through school and I think it can just be transformative for kids,” said Paul Neville, spokesperson for St. Vincent de Paul.

More than 2,000 homeless students attend school in Lane County.

In Eugene 4J District, the numbers are increasing. In 2013, 701 students were homeless. In 2015 there were 722 homeless students and in 2016 that number jumped to 810.

One of the church buildings will house 14 students. That might not sound like much in the grand scheme of things, but one of the coordinators said it’s a start.

“You start building a couple more and then maybe a few more after that,” Neville said.

The building will also include offices for a case work services manager and for a resident manager. The shelter will also provide mental health services and fulltime mentors.

The residence is for 16 to 18 year olds – those at risk of dropping out of high school.

Students in Eugene 4J, Springfield and Bethel school districts will apply through their schools.

“School staff who know who students are, know the students, know their needs, will help to find students who could be served by and would be a good fit for a program such as this,” said Kerry Delf from Eugene 4J School District.

Organizers say it’s a stepping stone to graduation and lifelong success.

“They've got nothing and here's a chance to give them some of the things that other kids have and if that doesn't get your heart, nothing does,” Neville said.

A federal grant to purchase the property will be decided on Thursday. All other costs will be paid for with donations, state funding and St. Vincent de Paul’s retail sales.

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