The Medford-based Maslow Project is looking for rural partners to help expand its efforts to serve homeless youths and families throughout Jackson County.
Director Mary Ferrell said the organization wants to network with caring people and community partners in all areas outside of Medford.
Spring break has created a hunger issue for many homeless students, many of whom get their only hot meal at school. Donations of school supplies or nonperishable food items, such as frozen breakfasts, TV dinners, pizzas or ramen soups, are appreciated and can be dropped off at the Maslow Project in Medford, 500 Monroe St.
Members of nonprofit groups, civic and faith-based organizations or individuals with an interest in helping the center better bring services to homeless youths in outlying areas are invited to help identify those in need, organize supply drives or simply provide area-specific insights, she said.
"We realize homelessness doesn't have very clear borders," Ferrell said. "We are looking for local-level feedback."
Rogue River, Phoenix/Talent and Ashland school districts have joined forces with Maslow to help identify and support homeless students attending their schools.
Ferrell said students may be referred to the Maslow Project's case manager by a teacher or school counselor, and they would have the option of voluntarily seeking help. Youths could speak to the case manager by themselves or alongside their parents, she said.
The school-based help is designed to keep struggling kids in school by linking them to social services that can help with primary needs such as food, clothing and transportation, she said.
"Kids can't be in school if they are hungry, have no clothes or can't even get to school," Ferrell said.
The term "homeless" in school-district language is defined broadly, she said, and accounts for students who may have a roof to sleep under. They could be couch surfing, staying in a hotel room, camping or staying away from their family, she said.
"We want to be clear we're not just talking about runaways," Ferrell said. "It's a wide variety of issues."
During the 2010-11 school year, Ashland identified 99 homeless students in kindergarten through 12th grade out of a student population of 2,804, a 17.8 percent increase over 2009-10, when the district counted 84. The numbers increased as awareness of how to identify those needing help grew, she said.
Rogue River had 33 students identified as homeless before the Maslow Project began working there in 2010. Maslow identified about 110 the following year, Ferrell said.
If you have ideas, suggestions or resources, and would like to be involved in the rural outreach effort, contact Ashley Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-608-6868.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email@example.com.