A School for Homeless Children

By Gary McLain

Have you ever thought about where homeless children go to school? Do they have a chance to get an education, or are they pre-destined to be caught in a vicious cycle of generation after generation of ignorance?

Portland has a pre-K to 8th grade school that is committed to educating homeless children. It's called the Community Transitional School (CTS), and it's specifically for kids who are homeless, or in transition throughout the Portland-metro area.

The school has four small busses that pick up and drop off homeless children within 120 square miles of the school each school day. Their service is door to door. The routes change daily to keep up with moving families in an effort to offer an education to these kids. If the school is notified by noon one day, the kids can be picked up the next at their new location. This private non-profit school has been in the Portland area for 25 years. Within the last few years they have moved into a brand-new building specifically built for the purpose. They are blessed with three classrooms, a lunch room, and office space. The combined grade classrooms are nicely and appropriately furnished, and and each has a computer lab as well. The three full-time teachers and two teachers' aides provide education for nearly 200 students who come and go each year. Around 80 of those students attend every day, and those that stay within the area have a 96 percent attendance rate. Many volunteers make the project work as well, coming in to work with the kids one-on-one, mostly on reading and math. The majority of these kids' parents are uninvolved with their kids' school life.

CTS has a couple after-school programs that older kids can be involved in. The coed volleyball team for the older kids is called the CTS Rockets. The Rockets play in the park organization league with other public high schools. They also have a leadership mentoring program in which the kids get to create their own businesses, like selling popcorn or making cards and selling them to local shops.

The majority of CTS's financial support is private. Foundations, corporations, church groups, and individuals provide donations of 90 percent of the schools funding. People to People Ministries, a non-profit ministry run by one of our local Adventist members, donates supplies to this school on a quarterly basis. This quarter they donated backpacks. CTS has had some students who have started in first grade and graduated from eighth because their families are chronically homeless, but have stayed in the area. Every once in a while CTS hears back from some of the kids that have gone to the school. Some have gone on to finish high school, or have even graduated from college.

One little girl started at Community Transitional School in the second grade. Her family lived in motels and would move 30 or more times each year. Over the years, the girl would take the initiative to call for the school bus when they had moved to a new location. Eventually her three siblings joined her at CTS. She is the first person in her extended family to have graduated from high school, and now she has gone on to college along with her younger sister. She is studying dental technology and her younger sister is studying art. Where do you think these kids would be today if there was no CTS in Portland?

To find out more or learn how you can get involved visit www.TransitionalSchool.org, or call 503-249-8582.