The importance of place education is discussed at the doorway of a private unit in the Girls Youth House. From left are resident Kelly Flannigan, Sen. Ron Wyden, Eileen Chanti, SVdP Director of Youth & Family Services, and Jenna Laver of the Girls Youth House staff.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden made a visit to St. Vincent de Paul’s Girls Youth House (GYH) on May 29 for a tour and a serious chat with staff and a previously homeless resident, to dialogue about how he can ensure more homeless students in Oregon – 22,000 at last count – can succeed and graduate from high school.

The success of Kelly Flannigan is what Youth House organizers were talking about when they launched the project three years ago. In the 2017-18 school year, Oregon students who self-identified as homeless had a high school graduation rate of just 54 percent. Sen. Wyden said he believes the 22,000 homeless students in Oregon deserve better. St. Vincent de Paul made gains with its Girls Youth House in Eugene, which is at capacity with 13 young women who endeavor to finish high school while living without family support or traditional housing.

“While we work to end chronic homelessness in our state, we should not forget how this crisis hurts kids and their education,” stated Senator Wyden, who is working to ensure legislation will provide increased funding for school counselors and teachers to inspire and act as positive role models in the lives of homeless students. He has called for increased funding for the McKinney Vento program that provides Homeless Assistance Grants for our communities to work on behalf of students and their families experiencing homelessness. “Increased funding will help these students thrive, the Senator wrote in a recent commentary.”

‘We can break the cycle of generational poverty, trauma, and abuse by way of a stable safe place to live and strong programmatic supports…’

— Eileen Chanti, Director, SVdP Youth & Family Services

Director of SVdP’s Youth & Family Services, Eileen Chanti, is counting on it. “We can break the cycle of generational poverty, trauma, and abuse by way of a stable safe place to live and strong programmatic supports, including Wrap-Around case management and trauma informed practices,” she said.

The Girls Youth House is one of a kind in in its capacity and scope.

“One year into operation, we see teen girls empowered to stay in school, graduate, and create career paths,” Chanti said. “Three of our residents will attend college this fall.

“We are thrilled for Senator Wyden’s intent to help secure federal support for continued operation of the Girls Youth House and the proposed Boys Youth House in the coming year.”

GYH resident Kelly Flannigan knows that SVdP’s strong programmatic support and home-like environment here at the Girls Youth House has changed the trajectory of her life.

Teens Without Homes

Kelly Flannigan, left, is one of tens of thousands of Oregoians who have spent at least part of the teen years apart from family and traditional housing.