Extra street count could provide homelessness insight

There's consideration to perform an extra street count

Tim Becker and KOIN 6 News Staff - PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Homelessness in Portland is "humanitarian crisis unfolding in our streets."

That's what Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in October, even admitting it's a huge issue that won't disappear overnight.

Until now, local service agencies have done homeless street counts every other year, which are different from the annual shelter counts. Now, the joint office of homeless services is considering whether to do an extra street count.

March Jolin, the director of Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services, said the department is working with the Mayor and County Chair to develop a survey that'll provide information and help create strategies for addressing local homelessness.

"One of the real limitations of the shelter count and street count is it doesn't attempt to count the doubled-up population," Jolin said, "and we know that probably two or three times as many people are doubled up at any given time as are on the streets or in shelters."

As the city cleans up camp sites it keeps informal census data gathered from every site.

Last February's street county found the number of homeless in Multnomah County increased by 10% since 2015. But those numbers don't necessarily answer every questions.

"Who are the folks that are living on our streets?" Michael Cox, a spokesman for Mayor Wheeler, asked rhetorically. "How did they get there and what sort of interventions would best help them get off the streets into shelter and into housing?"

Being able to answer those questions is why committees are making recommendations to the joint office about what the right focus and methodology of the survey should be.

"What we're looking at now is some more comprehensive survey options for subsets of the homeless population that would help us design strategies for that subset as a whole." Jolin said.

Cox added: "By doing more census activity around the homeless population we can help get some answers to those questions which better help us deliver services."

The hope is to implement the new count strategy by the end of this winter -- and again, hoping to get more of a handle on why the problem exits and what to do about it.

Here's a map of weekly reported sites.


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