Oregon sees 6 percent spike in homeless population
A recently released report showed that the number of homeless people in the state of Oregon is rising.
The findings of the federally mandated Point-in-Time Count reflected a 6 percent increase from 2015, the last time the count was conducted statewide. It found that 13,953 people in Oregon were without a home, up 777 people from 2015.
Locally, Multnomah County counted 4,177 homeless for its 2017 Point-in-Time report, up from 3,801 in 2015 — the highest in the state.
The state and local findings are presented in the annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress for funding. Last year's report to Congress documented 549,928 experiencing homelessness in the United States.
The Oregon Legislature approved $40 million in funding for the Emergency Housing Assistance and State Homeless Assistance programs to address homelessness.
Another $1.5 million was approved to help homeless veterans specifically. The state saw a 9 percent overall decrease in the homeless veteran population. However, locally, it went up slightly. There were 446 homeless veterans in Multnomah County, compared to 422 in 2015.
"The progress we're making to meet the housing needs of veterans is encouraging, and I'm proud we were able to dedicate additional funding this session to ensure every Oregon veteran has a roof over his or her head," said Gov. Kate Brown. "Still, we have much work ahead to provide safe and affordable housing options for children, seniors, and families in communities across the state."
Locally, more entered housing despite rise in homelessness
Although the numbers locally and statewide are up for those experiencing homelessness, the task force called A Home for Everyone — consisting of the city of Portland, Multnomah County, Gresham and A Home Forward — reported a rise in those they helped place into housing or prevented people from becoming homeless in the first place. That indicates that people are entering homelessness quicker than they can keep up with.
The group cites rising rent, housing costs and stagnant wages as ongoing barriers to actually reducing homelessness.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and a number of other city leaders, activists and bureaucrats sit on the A Home for Everyone executive committee and coordinating board.
In their year-end fiscal report, the coalition reported that 4,900 people obtained housing during 2017, which is up from 2,967 people placed into housing the year before the group launched in 2014.
They also reported that 6,139 people received prevention services and that 8,532 people accessed emergency shelter in 2017.
The city and county Joint Office of Homeless Services, which works in conjunction with A Home For Everyone, received $54 million this year from the two governments to fight homelessness.
"If we want to end homelessness, and truly help people rebuild their lives, we'll all have to do even more — providing shelter for those who need it, while keeping our focus on putting people back in permanent housing or helping them keep it in the first place," said Marc Jolin, director of A Home for Everyone and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.