Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The word "homeless," which conjures awful scenes of people shivering next to a sewer grate, seems worse still when applied to students.

A recent report from the state that counts 94 Baker County students - all but two in the Baker School District - as homeless is troubling to be sure.

But the situation is not as dire as the bare statistics suggest.

Most important, the state doesn't define a "homeless" student as one who lives on the streets.

A majority of the local homeless students live in a home, but they are forced to share space with another family or with friends.

This is not ideal, obviously.

Oregon statistics show that students deemed as homeless not only have lower-than-average scores on standard tests, but they also fall behind students who are "economically disadvantaged" but not considered homeless.

Rob Saxton, Oregon's deputy superintendent of public instruction, said "we need to come together as communities and as a state to meet our students' fundamental needs."

We agree.

There's little doubt that in the case of some "homeless" students that's happening. We would of course prefer that all students had a home of their own. But living temporarily with another family is a far better alternative than living in a car or going without shelter altogether.

Baker County is not a wealthy place in strictly financial terms.

But the county is rich in generosity and in volunteerism.

We don't believe any children would ever spend a night without a roof over their heads in Baker County, so long as the community is aware of their plight.

The latest figures, though, show that we need to strive to ensure no child is forgotten.