Oregon has been affected hard by homelessness, which has increased nationwide. Oregon’s homelessness rate is now among the nation’s highest. This homelessness crisis has afflicted the entire state, from huge cities to small towns. We’ll look at what’s causing Oregon’s homelessness crisis, how it’s affecting communities, and what’s being done to fix it.
Oregon’s Alarming Homelessness Surge: A Call to Action
According to federal statistics, Oregon had one of the biggest rises in homelessness between 2020 and 2022. According to a nationally mandated physical count of homeless individuals, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Oregon increased by approximately 23% during the two-year interval, from around 15,000 to about 18,000.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, this rate was significantly higher than the national average of less than 1% growth in people experiencing homelessness and also significantly higher than that of the other West Coast states, with Washington experiencing a 10% hike and California a 6% increase.
According to John Tapogna, senior policy adviser at ECONorthwest, an economics and development consulting business, housing costs are at the heart of Oregon’s homelessness epidemic. According to him, the property markets on both the West and East coasts are expensive due to a lack of available homes and poor vacancy rates.
“There is so much debate on the principal driver of homelessness,” Tapogna said. “Is it personal circumstance or the housing market? Incidence of homelessness is highest in areas where difficult personal circumstances intersect with a challenging housing market.”
He gave examples of states with high rates of disability (Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri) and high rates of opioid usage (West Virginia) but low rates of homelessness (because of reduced housing prices).
According to the research, Oregon will have the fourth-highest increase in homelessness in the United States between 2020 and 2022. From 2020 to 2022, the number of homeless persons in just three states was higher than in California (9,973), Louisiana (4,200), and Tennessee (3,311).
A Large Number of Unsheltered Homeless
More than 582,000 people were homeless in the United States in early 2022, according to the report. According to the survey, Oregon has the third-highest rate of homelessness in the US, with 42 individuals experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 residents.
It found that with 44 persons experiencing homelessness for every 10,000 inhabitants in the state, California has the highest rate in the country. Some of the greatest rates of unsheltered homelessness, which includes persons sleeping on the street, in a tent, a sleeping bag, or a vehicle, were also reported in Western states, including Oregon.
In early 2022, it was discovered that about 62% of Oregon’s homeless population did so without shelter. The percentage of homeless people without shelter was higher in only three other states: California (67%), Mississippi (64%), and Hawaii (63%). The average temperature in those three states is higher than in Oregon.
According to federal data from 2022, Oregon has a projected 18,000 homeless persons but slightly more than 5,200 year-round shelter beds to accommodate them.
The percentage of homeless people without shelter was lowest in some northern states. According to the survey, only around 2% of Vermont’s homeless population lives on the streets, whereas just over 5% of New York’s homeless population does. New York has one of the worst rates of homelessness in the country.
Long-Term Homelessness: A Disturbing First for This State
With 44% of homeless people in Oregon exhibiting signs of chronic homelessness, the state had the highest rate of chronic homelessness in the US. A person with a disability who has been homeless for more than a year or has been homeless more than once over several years is considered chronically homeless.
There has been a dramatic rise in chronic homelessness in recent years. Between 2020 and 2022, Oregon had the second-greatest growth rate, making it stand out. There were 6,447 chronically homeless individuals in the state in 2022, an increase of 2,324% from the previous year.
Since 2010, when the federal government made eradicating veteran homelessness a top priority, veteran homelessness rates have dropped dramatically across the country. Yet, between 2020 and 2022, Oregon saw a 10% increase in homeless veterans, to 1,460.
Oregon’s Homelessness Epidemic Hits Families Hard
There are homeless families in every state, although some provide shelter for most or all. According to official reports, there are no homeless families with children in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, or New York.
In early 2022, however, nearly 2,000 of Oregon’s 3,373 homeless families with children were estimated to be living without shelter. There was a significantly higher rate of family homelessness in California than in any other state.
Following behind with percentages of 47%, 44%, 38%, and 36%, respectively, were the states of Idaho, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.
Family homelessness increased by 27% in Oregon between 2020 and 2022, despite a national decline during the same period. In addition to Louisiana (3,732 new residents), Maine (1,146), Delaware (876), and Tennessee (876), no other state saw a larger gain in the population (777).
The survey indicated that the percentage of unsheltered people in families suffering homelessness in Portland was the second highest among the nation’s major metro regions, at 68%. Looking Glass Community Services director Craig Opperman, who works with homeless adolescents and families in Eugene, stated that the rising cost of housing has strained many families to breaking point.
“Some folks just can’t afford housing costs; they miss a paycheck or two and lose their rental place,” he said. “The cost of living is extremely high, and affordable housing is difficult to find. A family with, say, a 15-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 6-year-old might be unable to stay together. Maybe the 15-year-old who can better care for himself compared to his younger siblings couch surfs with friends while the parents and younger siblings stay somewhere else.”
The number of unaccompanied kids suffering homelessness decreased by 248 in Oregon between 2020 and 2022, making it one of the states with the highest drops. In 2022, there were roughly 1,000 unhoused kids in Oregon, a 19% drop from the previous year.
Portland’s New Avenues for Kids director Sean Suib was not surprised to hear the number of homeless youth has fallen, but he does not believe that this indicates a genuine decline in the youth homelessness crisis. He said that the federal court might not capture adolescents who are homeless since their circumstances are different from those of adults.
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“With gentrification, the push-out of poverty, and the increased number of older adults experiencing homelessness, young people who once were highly concentrated in downtown urban centers like Portland are now scattered throughout more suburban and rural parts of our communities,” Suib said. “Increasingly, young people utilize survival strategies like doubled up housing or living in unsafe or unstable housing situations to meet basic needs.”
According to him, the government count is geared more toward locating elderly people who are homeless. This, he argued, is why every Oregon town needs to do its headcount of young people.
Opperman claims that the state-wide homeless youth services have been stressed because of a shortage of mental health care for young people. He noted that the fact that roughly 40% of homeless adolescents identify as LGBTQ is an indication of the importance of addressing family acceptance.
“COVID has caused us to realize how fragile a lot of our young people’s mental health is,” he said. “We have seen a lot of family strife, a lot of strife around kids. And Oregon has one of the lowest numbers of intensive psychiatric beds available for youth.”
Eugene in the News: Primary Media Coverage for the City
The high rate of homelessness and the large number of homeless families forced to sleep on the streets in the Eugene area stood out. The survey found that among primarily metropolitan areas outside of major cities, the percentage of unsheltered homeless families in the greater Eugene area was the highest at over 84%.
With 2,880 persons, the Eugene metro region has the second-highest rate of homelessness among those areas. Unaccompanied juveniles, families with children, chronically homeless adults, and veterans all had among the highest rates of unsheltered homelessness in the country in this region. Seventy-three percent of Eugene’s homeless population is unsheltered.
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A recent Lane County study “noted that Lane County is ‘strikingly poorer’ than several other Oregon counties, the rest of Oregon, and the U.S. as a whole,” said Kelly McIver, spokesperson for the city of Eugene’s unhoused response team. “High housing demand and low vacancy rates have not translated to more affordable housing. The complexity, cost, and time to develop affordable housing in our area have meant need still far exceeds supply.”
According to Terry McDonald, director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, housing in the Eugene area was not traditionally constructed in the same way as it was in urban areas like Portland. Mobile homes and other low-cost housing options were created to serve the workforce of lumber mills and other rural businesses.
With fewer jobs available, there was less need for new homes, and the quality of what was already there declined.
“Places like Portland and San Francisco had a substantial amount of housing built because they were destinations for employment,” McDonald said. “When I went to high school in Eugene, you had to leave and move somewhere else to make money. Today, Oregon has been discovered as a destination, but we do not have any old buildings to repurpose or convert into housing. So if we want it, we have to build to catch up with the rapidly changing market.”
Eugene’s rent has increased in response to the increased demand for living space. According to McDonald, in 2012, a two-bedroom rental could be had for $600 per month. He stated that the current price is now over $1,300.
“People on fixed or low incomes can’t afford market rate prices anymore and are losing their housing,” he said. “The homeless population we see are older, on fixed incomes, and generally more female.”
1 thought on “Oregon’s Homelessness Rates Soar: A Troubling Trend for the State”
Plus beginning in 2023, landlords can increase rent at almost twice they could in 2022. That is going to produce even more homeless. Things like this shouldn’t have been allowed.