Everyday Heroes: Second Home Volunteers

BEAVERTON, Ore. - A unique program in Beaverton is giving homeless high school students a better shot at graduating.

The Second Home Program began five years ago as a partnership between Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Dispute Resolution Center of the Beaverton Mayor's Office, and the Beaverton School District.

Volunteers with the program work to provide housing for students who are unaccompanied, sometimes by opening up their own homes.

Lisa Mentesana, who works with homeless students in the Beaverton School District, helped develop the program.

"There's just not enough resources in any community to be able to provide stability for the number of kids that need it," Mentesana said.

There are 1600 homeless students in Beaverton, 330 of whom are unaccompanied by an adult, according the school district's most recent survey. That's the highest number of K-12 homeless students in the state, says Mentesana.

"[Unaccompanied students] are basically on their own, trying to make ends meet, trying to get to school, and they need some help at this point in their lives," Second Home Program Manager Jenny Pratt said.

After the district identifies unaccompanied students, counselors and other volunteers can work with them to figure out the best way to provide stable housing.

Sometimes, that means pairing the student with homeowners who have volunteered to provide housing.

It starts with an open heart

The staggering number of homeless students in Beaverton left Razvan and Alina Lupusoru in shock.

"I just couldn't believe it was actually happening. We knew we had to help out," Alina said. She and Razvan volunteered to open their suburban two-story to a student in need.

They were paired with Kemoni Bailey, a 19-year-old woman who found herself last spring without stable housing months before she was due to graduate from high school.

Pratt said getting Kemoni a place to stay was absolutely essential for her education.

"Kemoni was feeling that anxiety and that stress and when she knew she had a place she could be through graduation and a few months beyond, that relieved that stress," Pratt said.

Kemoni stayed with the Lupusorus beyond graduation, through the summer.

"We wanted to mentor her in a way we think would make her successful in her own life," Alina said. "We took her on her first hike. She'd never been hiking before. And when in Oregon, you must go hiking."

Kemoni graduated in June, now has a job and is saving up to start her college education.

"Alina and Razvan, they kept me going. And, like, I never gave up because of them," Kemoni said. "It's really shocking, actually. I never really meet people like that. You never see that anymore."

Pratt said since 2010, Second Home has provided long-term housing for 37 unaccompanied high school students, and found alternative housing solutions for many more.

Second Home has now expanded to the Gresham-Barlow school district and schools in Lincoln County.

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