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City count sees increase in regions homeless numbers

Despite the addition of new facilities to house the homeless, the latest one-night count released Tuesday shows that the number of homeless in Multnomah County continues to grow.

The 2011 count, taken by volunteers who canvassed the city the night of Jan. 26, tallied 2,727 people sleeping outside, in emergency shelters or using city or county vouchers for nights in motel rooms. It was a 7 percent increase from the last count in 2009. The county two years ago revealed an 11 percent increase from the 2007 count.

The new figures from the Portland Housing Bureau show that 12 percent of the county's homeless are veterans. Half of the homeless reported a disabling condition of some kind, and 35 percent of homeless women have been affected by domestic violence.

City officials are primarily blaming the prolonged recession and high unemployment rates for the increase.

Maileen Hamto says the increased totals might in part be due to better counting by volunteers, but that the economy certainly plays a role.

'The recession really took a toll on the community,' Hamto says. 'People are having trouble looking for work and keeping jobs.'

The housing bureau's report makes note of the high rate of homelessness among what it calls 'populations of color.' Those residents represent 29 percent of Multnomah County's overall population, but 46 percent of those who were counted as homeless.

The report also notes that by some estimates, as many as 10,000 more people could be counted as homeless if those who were doubling up in the homes of friends and family were counted.

Read the full report at www.portlandonline.com/phb/index.cfm? and c=43985 .