PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At least 6,633 people were reportedly homeless across the metro area in late January, according to numbers released Wednesday for the tri-county region.
The Point in Time Count, which was conducted Jan. 26, is a federally required tally and provides a snapshot of how many people are homeless on a given night in each community. It was the first full regional count since the pandemic began and Multnomah County’s first survey since 2019 when more than 4,000 people were recorded as experiencing homelessness.
In this year’s count in Multnomah County, 5,228 people were considered homeless, with 3,057 of them unsheltered, 1,485 in shelter and 685 in transitional housing.
In Washington County, 808 people were counted as homeless, with 227 unsheltered, 496 in shelter and 85 in transitional housing.
And in Clackamas County, 597 people were recorded as homeless, 327 were not in a shelter, 241 were in a shelter and 29 were in transitional housing.
Among the three counties, 3,674 people were experiencing what officials called “chronic homelessness,” meaning they had been homeless for at least one year and had at least one disabling condition relating to mental health, addiction, chronic illness or physical disability.
According to the report, almost 40% of those counted in Multnomah County were people of color.
Takeaways from the tally
Officials said the results of the count “make clear that people of color continue to face disproportionate rates of homelessness” and that the community is still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
The Point in Time Count should also be considered an undercount, officials said, for multiple reasons — it only measures homelessness on a single night and it doesn’t account for thousands of people who were staying with friends or family and didn’t have homes of their own.
“It’s also not possible to definitively find, survey and count every person experiencing homelessness,” leaders from the tri-county area said in a press release Wednesday.
This count, which was postponed from January 2021 due to COVID-19, was the first time the tri-county area jointly released its numbers. Officials said it will make sure the counties are eligible for federal funding for housing and homelessness services.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services is set to release the results from its more extensive, traditional report for Multnomah County later in the summer. JOHS is planning another count in January 2023, and an archive of the county’s previous results can be found here.
Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan criticized the 2022 Point in Time Count, saying he was “deeply disappointed” with the JOHS.
His office released the following statement:
“I am deeply disappointed in the Joint Office’s execution of the 2022 Point in Time Count. Across the country, it is common knowledge that the methodology behind the Point in Time Count is fundamentally flawed. The fact is the count is only conducted as a federally mandated compliance mechanism. However, the approach in Multnomah County is to add in-depth interviews and layers of complexity. This approach gets us even farther from the requirements of this federal compliance exercise, and it simply doesn’t work.
However, real-time data is necessary. From day one of my time in office I have been pushing for real-time data on homelessness. One of my first meetings after being sworn in September 2020 was with staff from Community Solutions, and I led the push to formalize an agreement with Community Solutions and the Joint Office to create a “by name list”—an accurate data set that shows where each person is in our continuum at any given time. Community Solutions and their keystone initiative, “Built for Zero”, were the recent recipients of a $100m Macarthur Foundation grant. They are renowned for their successful work across the country in helping localities use their data to actually reduce homelessness.
That was over a year ago. I am again calling on the Joint Office and the many providers contracted through the Joint Office to launch their “by name list” with the greatest urgency. Complex local problems require complex local solutions, and until we have real-time data to understand the problem, we’ll never be able to truly work toward the solutions.”