As homelessness climbs in Camas, resource center helps struggling families

Camas School District's Family-Community Resource Center provides everything from backpacks to winter coats

Donated school supplies fill a drawer at the Camas School District's resource center.

Children in need can pick up school supplies such as markers at the Family-Community Resource Center.

Olivia Eagle, with the Camas School District, shows a cabinet filled with toiletries and other home supplies at the district's Family-Community Resource Center.

Olivia Eagle shows a clothing closet inside the Camas School District's Family-Community Resource Center. (Photos by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

It’s less than a week before the first day of school in Camas, and Olivia Eagle is helping a young boy gather the supplies he needs to have a successful school year.

After finding a backpack and classroom supplies, the boy heads to a clothing closet. He knows the styles and colors he likes, so it doesn’t take too long for him to choose a warm winter coat with matching hat and gloves.

A few minutes after the boy leaves — beaming over his new back-to-school goodies — Eagle fields a request from a school counselor: can she please send some resources for a homeless family?

“I’ll email them right now,” Eagle tells the counselor.

As a contact for low- and no-income families of Camas School District (CSD) students who come to the school district’s Family-Community Resource Center (FCRC) looking for help with everything from school supplies and clothes to assistance finding a roof to put over their heads, Eagle is used to being a bit harried in the course of her job.

The 2012 Camas High graduate, who earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Azusa Pacific University in 2015, doesn’t mind the hectic pace, though — especially if it means helping families in Camas who are struggling.

“I feel so blessed to be in this position,” Eagle, 25, says. “It can be tough … but there are definitely some heartwarming moments.”

The Camas native is no stranger to the ways of the Camas School District. She spent her own school years in Camas, after all, and her father, Jon Eagle, is Camas High School’s longtime football coach.

What Eagle didn’t realize, however, was just how many Camas families with young children were finding it hard to survive in this part of Clark County.

The 2018-19 school year marked Eagle’s first as the district’s point person for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

“I didn’t expect to have so many (families) in need of rental assistance,” Eagle said. “The cost of living here is so high that a lot of families are struggling to pay rent or, especially, afford moving costs.”

The Camas School District counted its highest number of homeless families — around 80 — during the 2018-19 school year. Eagle worked with those families to find resources in the community.

“Most of them were doubled up, living with other families and a few were living in RVs or cars,” Eagle said. “About 25 or 30 were unaccompanied, homeless teens, which was really eye-opening.”

Eagle has been pursuing partnerships with other service providers in Camas-Washougal, and will soon coordinate the region’s faith-based coffee gatherings, where representatives from churches, social service agencies, school districts and nonprofits get together to discuss how they can better meet the needs of school-aged children and families.

Last school year, Eagle helped build the FCRC, billed by the school district as “a place where students and families can find help … resources and support for daily and long-term challenges including school supplies, clothing, personal hygiene items, laundry facilities, foster care and housing.”

The goal of the center is to “remove the barriers to helping all children succeed,” according to the school district.

The center offers a clothing closet, weekend food backpack program for families who need extra food to make it through the weekend or holiday non-school days, toiletries closet — which includes feminine hygiene products for menstruating students in need as well as everyday items like toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant — shoes, school supplies and a food pantry.

Eagle said the center is always in need of donations (currently, there is a need for T-shirts for a variety of ages as well as markers and “paint pens”) and that she could really use a few volunteers willing to help sort through donated supplies and clothes.

With one year of the FCRC under her belt, Eagle said she’s ready to branch out a little bit and make more connections to resource-providers in the region.

“I’d like to go deeper with our community partners in my second year,” Eagle says. “I’m looking forward to (making connections) through the faith-based luncheons.”

Located at the Jack, Will and Rob Center, at 2033 N.E. Ione St., near Camas’ Hayes Freedom High School, the FCRC is open all year: with drop-in hours from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m., on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the school year and from 4 to 6 p.m., on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer months.

To learn more about the center, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act or the school district’s foster care resources, visit camas.wednet.edu/family-community-resource-center/, or contact Eagle at olivia.eagle@camas.wednet.edu or at 360-833-5612.