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Monday, July 8, 2019

Study warns of 156,000 Oregon Households at Risk of Homelessness

This following is an article from  The Oregonian/OregonLive  demonstrating how poverty is affecting everyone in Oregon and around the country.

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Study warns of 156,000 Oregon Households at Risk of Homelessness

By Molly Harbarger 
from The Oregonian/OregonLive 
Updated Mar 15, 2019; Posted Mar 14, 2019

A new study from a Portland economic firm says that Oregon has a disproportionately large share of the country’s homeless population -- and many more on the edge. 

The report jumped off a study done two years ago in which Portland residents said they were split on whether they thought the growing number of people living on the street was caused by economic forces or individual choices. 

A homeless man named Carl pushes a cart containing his belongings under I-5 on the east side of the Willamette River.

A homeless man named Carl pushes a cart containing his belongings under I-5 on the east side of the Willamette River.

The study’s authors said Wednesday that they think elected officials and policymakers have spent too much time and money alleviating the symptoms of homelessness and catering to residents who believe homelessness is a choice caused by people who don’t seek help for addiction or mental health issues.
Instead, the study’s authors, ECONorthwest, and funders, Oregon Community Foundation, called for state and local leaders to focus more on the large number of people who live on the edge of homelessness as well as people who have been homeless for a year or more and struggle to stay in housing.
“A lot of the policy solutions are in the space of what I would call the policy of last resort -- which is shelter expansion,” said ECONorthwest consultant John Tapogna.
The entire West Coast is in the midst of a homelessness crisis that sees more people forced on to the street each year. Max Williams of the Oregon Community Foundation said that the state’s largest philanthropic organization wanted more information about what the drivers of this crisis in Oregon is to figure out how to best invest money in stopping it. The foundation and its donor spends about $6 million to $8 million every year in housing and homelessness.
“While we’ve been watching this problem and investing in it in a variety ways for quite some time, what we felt was lacking was clear data,” Williams said.
Many of the ideas in the study will be common to nonprofits and local government bodies who work around homelessness issues. However, Williams said that the study provides a more clear-eyed look at quantifying what the challenges are for stemming the flow of people into homelessness by separating people considered to be chronically homeless and those who are homeless because of unexpected situations in their lives.
Here are three big takeaways from the findings:
1. Oregon’s population makes up only 1.3 percent of the country’s population, yet the state’s population of people who are considered chronically homeless and not in shelter makes up 5.6 percent of that segment of the national population.
2. There are 156,000 households in Oregon that are on the edge of homelessness. These are people who spend at least 50 percent of their income on rent and run the risk of losing their housing from one unexpected medical bill, a layoff or a car repair.
Tapogna said that his study shows that since the most recent recession, the Portland housing market has not kept up with demand -- creating 63 units of housing for ever 100 families formed -- and thus has placed immense pressure on people on the edge of homelessness.

Tapogna argues those are the people least served by the state and Portland’s existing homelessness services framework. He said that he thinks Portland Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services is one of the most effective governmental responses to homelessness in the country, but it won’t make a dent in people with incomes too low to ward off homelessness.
“That is a problem that then requires much more than your Joint Office and the number of very well-functioning and well-armed nonprofits,” Tapogna said. “This is a broad economic issue. It is an issue that involves the state Legislature, it’s an issue that involves community planning departments in cities and counties across the state, and it also involves the federal government that is the major provider of subsidies to low-income families.”
3. Local and state officials have some solutions for people who struggle the most to stay in housing, according to the study, but not enough analysis is done to figure out how to measure the benefits of those solutions and which tactic works best for which kind of person.
For instance, the study encourages Portland and Multnomah County’s push for more permanent supportive housing -- housing for people with little to no income who also have mental health issues, addiction, criminal records or other obstacles to staying in housing and becoming self-sufficient.
However, Tapogna said that the supportive housing model could use more measurements of who thrives best in that environment, and thus who should be prioritized for it. He also said that the cost savings long-term are not adequately known, among other measures.
-- Molly HarbargerThe Oregonian/OregonLive 

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