Homeless numbers up in Lane County

There are more homeless people in Oregon than there were last year and Lane County has the majority of them. This, according to the yearly point in time count conducted by Oregon Housing and Community Services as part of a nationwide effort to count homeless populations around the country. Lane County was recorded as having the second highest homeless rate, fourth largest chronically homeless population and second largest homeless veteran population behind Multnomah County. 

This year’s count—conducted in January by volunteers armed with questionnaires—saw the total homeless population in the state total 13,953. The number is up, six percent, from 2016’s count total of 13,276. In Lane County, 1,529 individuals were counted as homeless; 42 percent of those individuals were classified as chronically homeless.

The results of the point in time count vary in their accuracy—a phenomenon officials say can be attributed to the nature of the county itself. It takes place over the course of one night in January with volunteers visiting homeless shelters and locations around the city or county known for attracting homeless populations. The volunteers ask individuals their ages, race and other personal questions including how they became homeless and if they have been diagnosed with mental illness. If individuals refuse to answer, the information cannot be recorded. Moreover, the answers the individuals give are not fact-checked.

Observations made by volunteers are corroborated through questions asked of the individuals being recorded as homeless. Myths surrounding homelessness continue to flourish despite statistics like the ones presented in the point in time count.

According to the data provided in the county, a larger percentage of the homeless population suffers from mental illness (14 percent) than addiction (12 percent). Of those with a mental illness or addiction, 68 percent were unsheltered, rather than considered sheltered homeless meaning they sought lodging in places HUD defines as not traditional living quarters. Individuals living in cars, on the street, in parks and abandoned buildings are considered to be unsheltered. To be considered sheltered, individuals must be seeking lodging in emergency shelters, transitional shelters or otherwhise being housed in lodgings meant for people to live in.

164 veterans were counted as homeless in Lane County, ranking the county second behind Multnomah—which includes Portland—and 444 homeless veterans.

For more information on the data contained in this year's point in time count report, visit http://www.oregon.gov/ohcs/ISD/RA/2017-Point-in-Time-Estimates-Homelessness-Oregon.pdf.

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