Every other year in the United States, Point-In-Time estimates are released that provide a detailed snapshot of homelessness nationwide. Creating this snapshot involves the participation of staff from homeless assistance agencies, county and city employees, as well as hundreds of volunteers across the country. We will be using this data to compare Oregon’s specific rates of homelessness with national averages, and will attempt to uncover insights as to why any similarities or differences may exist.
According to the January 2017 Point-In-Time Count , there are approximately 553,742 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States, representing a rate of roughly 17 in 10,000 persons. This is actually the lowest national rate of homelessness calculated in this country since the start of point-in-time data collection. But, despite this rate decrease, the overall number of individuals experiencing homelessness increased by 0.7% between 2016 and 2017.
On a national level, the decrease in the rate of homelessness can be explained by an overall shift in homeless assistance programs. Over the last decade, there has been greater national emphasis on permanent housing solutions, and less on transitional housing programs.
In Oregon, the rate of homelessness is significantly higher than the national average, at approximately 34 individuals out of every 10,000, or 13,953 individuals total. Portland’s rate is even higher at roughly 52 out of 10,000 individuals. These rates and totals mark a notable increase since 2015. Over this period, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night in the state has increased 6%, a much higher increase than what was seen on a national level.
According to Oregon’s Department of Housing & Community Services, this increase was likely caused by a an overall lack of affordable housing in the state. The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that, in 2016, Oregon was the 6th fastest growing state in the nation, and over 75% of that growth came from people moving into Oregon. However, there was also a dramatic decline in housing production between 2005-2010, causing a critically low housing supply. Oregon’s Department of Housing & Community Services states that “a low housing inventory coupled with a growing population has led to some of the lowest rental vacancy rates in the country.”
When examining national and state-wide data, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the problem. However, there is so much that we can all do to make a difference. To support JOIN’s existing efforts to put an end to homelessness across Portland, donate to JOIN today.