Multnomah County homeless population up 30% from 2019, data shows – Blogtown

Multnomah County’s homeless population has increased by more than 1,000 people since 2019. Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County

The total number of homeless people in Multnomah County has increased 30% since 2019, according to data released Wednesday by the county’s Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS). The majority of the increase is homeless homeless people – a term to define those living on the streets as opposed to transitional housing or emergency shelters. In 2022, 3,057 people were homeless in the county, up from 2,037 in 2019.

The data was collected as part of the biannual JOHS count, during which hundreds of people collect information on where homeless people in Multnomah County spend one night of the year. This year, volunteers visited night shelters, camps, transitional housing projects, etc. January 26, 2022. Since the count is taken over one night, JOHS officials note that it does not represent the number of people entering and exiting homelessness throughout the day. the year, or how many people are homeless but are temporarily staying with a friend or family member that night. While the data is the best snapshot the region has for understanding the number of homeless people in the county, officials say it is limited and should be considered an undercount.

“The extent of homelessness in the community is not static, and the number of homeless people who need services over the course of a year is far greater than any number overnight” , reads the county press release accompanying the data.

A full count report including age, gender, race and other demographics of those included in the count will be released by the county this summer.

According to Wednesday’s data, the number of homeless people in Multnomah County has increased by more than 1,000 since 2019, when the county last counted. As of January 26, 2022, outreach volunteers counted 5,228 homeless people in Multnomah County, up from 4,015 in January 2019. About 58% of the county’s homeless population was living “homeless” at the time of this year’s count. , meaning they were in unauthorized encampments or otherwise not in shelter or transitional housing.

While the number of shelter beds in the county has increased since 2019, the number of people using these shelter beds has remained stagnant. Before the pandemic, the county had 1,350 year-round shelter beds, some of which could accommodate more than one person at a time. In 2019, 1,459 people were counted in shelters, about 36% of the homeless population at the time. As of March 2022, the county had more than 1,600 beds and sleeping cabins available and 1,485 people, or about 28% of the homeless population, were using them at the time of the count.

This year, 686 people were in transitional housing at the time of the count, compared to 519 people in 2019.

Notably, people of color are still overrepresented in Multnomah County’s homeless population. Although they make up 32% of the county’s total population, people of color made up 39.6% of the homeless people counted this year. This is similar to 2019, when 38% of registered homeless people were people of color.

Of those counted this year, 60% were male, 37.8% were female, 1.5% were transgender, and 2% were non-binary, gender fluid, or culturally specific gender.

While the county has “considerable useful information” on the sheltered homeless population, the pandemic has tested the outreach team’s ability to reach people living on the streets during the count, as some teams community had to self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 and some usual homeless services. centers where homeless people previously spent time have been closed due to the pandemic. In 2019, the team collected 2,000 surveys from people living on the streets. This year, the number fell to 1,603. To bolster information about unhoused people in the county, JOHS used data from “coordinated access” lists – lists of homeless people by name that the county has started collecting since the 2019 count. JOHS made sure they did not include people from the lists who were counted during the count.

In a news release, City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the Portland Housing Office and serves as the city council’s liaison with JOHS, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the county’s execution of the count. Ryan specifically criticized the county’s collection of surveys and interviews with homeless people as part of the counting process.

“Across the country, it’s common knowledge that the methodology behind the point count is fundamentally flawed,” Ryan said. “However, the approach in Multnomah County is to add in-depth interviews and layers of complexity. This approach takes us even further away from the requirements of this federal compliance exercise, and it just doesn’t work.

Ryan cited a need for more real-time data, which he says can be achieved by creating a dataset that lists homeless people by name and records their housing status at any given time whether they whether in transitional housing, in a shelter or living in a camp. However, according to JOHS spokesperson Denis Theriault, the lists Ryan is claiming are the same as the county’s Coordinated Access lists that were used in this year’s count.

A detailed report on the 2022 point count is expected to be released later this summer.