Oregon – A recent study from Portland State University found that homelessness in Oregon went up by 8.5% since 2022. This study used data from the 2023 Point In Time (PIT) count and the Housing Inventory Count (HIC), which looks at the number of beds available for shelter and housing.
PIT count is the number of homeless people
The PIT count is basically a headcount of people without homes, whether they’re staying in shelters or not. The government asks for this count to be done by groups that help homeless people and government offices that deal with homelessness. Oregon has eight of these groups spread out across the state. The results of the PIT count get sent to the government, which then shares them online and in yearly reports to Congress.
While the PIT count doesn’t tell us everything about homelessness in Oregon, it does give us a brief look at the situation on the night of January 24, 2023. By also looking at how many beds are available and information from schools, the study highlights several important facts about homelessness in the state.
- Homelessness continues to rise across most of the state.
- The gap between shelter/housing capacity and the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to grow, contributing to a high rate of unsheltered homelessness.
- Many people of color experience homelessness at disproportionately higher rates than their White neighbors, in particular, Oregonians who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, or Indigenous; Black, African American, or African; Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; or Multiracial.
- While the total number of people experiencing homelessness are highest in Multnomah, Lane, and Deschutes County, homelessness rates are highest in several rural/semi-rural counties.
“These data make it clear that we must provide enough services in our cities while also ensuring that small towns and rural areas receive essential support; address high housing costs and low availability as drivers of homelessness; and understand the impacts of racism and discrimination,” said Jacen Greene, report lead and HRAC assistant director. “But as sobering as these numbers are, we can alleviate homelessness if we come together as a community and implement evidence-based, equity-centered practices at the needed scale.”
Data shows growing number of people in Oregon without a home
On one night in 2023, Oregon counted 20,100 people without homes. Out of these, 13,004 didn’t have a proper place to stay and were living outside, while 7,106 were staying in shelters or temporary housing. This shows a 17.2% increase in people living outside compared to 2022, and a 4.2% rise in those staying in shelters.
Multnomah County saw the most people without homes, but Clatsop and Sherman counties had higher rates of homelessness when you look at the number of homeless people per 1,000 residents. These trends in Oregon are part of a bigger pattern across the country, where homelessness went up by 12% from 2022 to 2023. Oregon stood out with the second-highest percentage of people living outside in the country (65% of its homeless population) and the highest number of homeless families and young people on their own without shelter.
“While our commitment to expanding shelter beds in Oregon remains steadfast, the sobering reality is that the statewide shelter bed gap has outpaced our efforts,” said Oregon Housing and Community Services Director Andrea Bell. “We hold a fierce urgency to bridge this gap. In pursuit of real outcomes for our beloved Oregon, we must center racial equity and reaffirm human dignity as this improves outcomes for everyone. We know that homelessness, at its root, is caused by the lack of housing that is affordable, and we will hold steady as we continue to push forward solutions through Oregon’s emergency homelessness response.”
The Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC) focuses on understanding why homelessness happens and how to stop it. They use studies, like the one we’re talking about, to try and lessen homelessness and make sure it doesn’t unfairly hit communities of color harder. A big reason people become homeless is because they can’t find a place to live that they can afford. In Oregon, nearly 90% of people with very low incomes spend more than 30% of what they make on rent. The state is short by about 140,000 homes to fix this problem. However, not everyone faces this risk equally.
According to the 2023 PIT count, certain groups in Oregon are more likely to be homeless compared to their numbers in the general population. Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander residents are 3.58 times more likely to be homeless. Black, African American, or African residents are 3.27 times more likely, and American Indian, Alaska Native, or Indigenous residents are 2.43 times more likely. People who identify as multiracial are 1.66 times more likely to be homeless. This shows a clear imbalance in who gets hit hardest by the housing crisis.