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City, county gear up for one-night count of homeless

A street scene in Old Town where a man beds down in a doorway, protected from view by his wheelchair.
Photo by Israel Bayer

Staff reports

Outreach workers from organizations throughout Portland and Multnomah County will be out at the end of January trying to determine exactly how many people are homeless in this area.

The work is in partnership with Portland and Multnomah County to compile both the numbers and demographics of people experiencing homelessness, from the Columbia Gorge to the floating camps on the Willamette River. The date for the one-night count is Jan. 30, however people will be surveyed on their sleeping status for that night through the week.

The homeless count is conducted to learn more about the individuals and families experiencing homelessness who are unsheltered. The report is federally mandated and happens in communities around the U.S. throughout 2013.

“The street count is a snapshot of homelessness in our community,” says housing commissioner Nick Fish. “Knowledge is power — the better we understand the challenge facing us, the better we can respond.”

The count captures those sleeping outside – on the street, in a car or abandoned building. In combination with the One-Night Shelter Count, which is conducted on the same night, the homeless count provides information on scope of homelessness and the need for services. The shelter count gathers information on people sleeping in or turned away from emergency shelters, motels, and transitional housing.

The homeless and shelter count is coming at a time when Multnomah County and the City of Portland are updating the 10-year plan to end homelessness. The updated plan will look at a broader population of people to target for housing, specifically families experiencing homelessness.

Generally accepted as an undercount, the 2011 one-night count tallied more than 4,600 people who were homeless. Nearly half were families with children, a 35 percent increase over the previous count in 2009.

Meanwhile, the city’s financial crunch has the Portland Housing Bureau contemplating a 10 percent reduction in its housing and homeless service programs.