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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Homeless Count Is In. And it's Not Lookin' Good.

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 at 3:32 PM

One night a year, city staffers, social service workers, and an army of volunteers comb Portland's streets and shelters, trying to get every single homeless person to fill out a ten question survey. The resulting homeless census is a lowball figure on the number of homeless people who live in Portland, but it provides a pretty clear snapshot of what their situations are like.

Today, the numbers for this year's homeless census are finally in! And it's not so good. According to the housing bureau's strange homelessness nutrition pyramid, the number of people living on the streets, in shelters, and in transitional housing grew eight percent to 4,655 people.

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The number of homeless families grew by 35 percent. Yikes.

So what's going on here? Discussion and charts, charts, charts below the cut.

There's a couple factors contributing to increased homelessness in Portland.

The first big one is the housing the area is getting more expensive and the amount of affordable housing is declining. I wrote more about the shrinking amount of affordable housing in Portland here and here, but as the homeless count notes, "According to a recently released national report, a minimum-wage earner in Multnomah County would need to work 82 hours per week, or earn $17.40/hour in a full-time job, to afford the area’s fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment."

The city has made some solid progress on homelessness—the Bud Clark Commons opened this year for example. But even that is a stark example of need: On the day it opened, the waiting list to get into the Commons' affordable housing was 150 names long.

There's also the recession to blame, of course, and slashed mental health services. About 50 percent of people in the count had a "disabling condition", including many with mental health problems.

Okay, now the charts. I just took screenshots of the most interesting ones from the count:

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You can download the full study here.

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