Homelessness has increased in Oregon again. The State of Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services released the annual Point In Time Counts yesterday, showing homelessness has increased 29% since the count conducted in 2009, despite federal stimulus funds designed to prevent increases in homelessness due to the recession. The State of Oregon can and must do more to protect those among us most affected by the economic downturn.
“In Oregon, we believe everyone needs a place to call home. As we work together to solve the current budget crisis, the Legislature needs to prioritize providing basic needs to those most impacted by the ongoing recession and should consider an increase to the Emergency Housing Account,” said Janet Byrd, Chair of the Housing Alliance, “The on-going recession, high unemployment and continued wave of foreclosures in Oregon continues to make it more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. Far too many of our friends, neighbors and children are experiencing homelessness today in Oregon.”
According to the report released yesterday by the State Department of Housing and Community Services, homelessness increased 29% in Oregon from 2009. As the recession continues, more and more Oregon families find themselves homeless for the first time.
“Every year it is becoming more difficult for hard working Oregonians to find decent homes they can afford,” said Sharon Miller, Executive Director of Neighbor Impact in Redmond. “We saw increases in homelessness despite an infusion of federal stimulus funds designed to prevent this very situation. These federal funds are nearly gone, and we’re left with an on-going recession, fewer state resources and continued high unemployment.”
“Hardworking people should be able to afford housing and still have enough money for groceries and other basic necessities,” said Jackie Schad, Executive Director of ACCESS, Inc in Jackson County. “Too many families across the state can’t afford a safe, stable place to call home. We’re calling on the State Legislature to increase funds for emergency rent assistance to help protect families and children affected by the recession.”
In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Oregon received $15 million to be spent between 2009 and 2011. These funds were to be used to help people either prevent or end their homelessness through short-term rental assistance. The money was quickly and effectively used in Oregon for this purpose, but despite these additional funds, the need far outweighed the availability of these funds. Oregon has a similar fund, the Emergency Housing Account, which is slated to receive $5.8 million in general funds according to the Governor’s Requested Budget. Increases to the Emergency Housing Account would go directly towards preventing and ending homelessness throughout Oregon.
The report is a compilation of a count conducted each year across the United States, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report counts families, children and individuals staying in shelters, on the street, in cars and other places which aren’t providing a safe or stable place to call home.
Read more about the report here.
Note: Street Roots asked the city for comment on the recent report. Here’s what spokesperson for the Portland Housing Bureau had to say: “The Portland Housing Bureau and the Multnomah County Department of County Human Services coordinated the work of hundreds of local agencies and volunteers who conducted the local 2011 one night count of people experiencing homelessness. Though we submitted our preliminary results to OHCS to contribute to this statewide data, we are carefully analyzing our data to better understand our local picture of homelessness. We expect to issue a detailed report by the end of June.”
An earlier report released by the Housing Alliance and the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that the cost of renting an apartment in Oregon has continued to increase. The average fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Oregon is $822 —a number that has increased 35% since 2000.
The Housing Alliance brings together advocates, local governments, housing authorities, community development corporations, environmentalists, service providers, business interests and all others dedicated to increasing the resources available to meet our housing needs to support a common statewide legislative and policy agenda.
Alison McIntosh is a Policy Manager with Neighborhood Partnerships.