1,166 people were experiencing homelessness in Clackamas County on the night of Jan. 22 of this year, according to the recently released Point-In-Time count, a biannual effort of more than 150 volunteers, county staff, community partners and nonprofits that attempts to gather information about homelessness in our local area.
The count involves surveys that are conducted at food pantries, faith-based organizations, agency waiting rooms, shelters, schools and outdoor areas.
Of that number, only 25 people experiencing homelessness were documented in Canby, though one should be cautious about getting too excited about that number. Many factors can impact the accuracy of a Point-in-Time Count, including methodology, volunteer availability, agency staff involvement and even the weather.
For example, 300 people — more than a quarter of those surveyed — did not even answer the question about what city or area of the county they were experiencing homelessness in.
Still, the numbers can be useful, especially in comparing to previous years to gauge the effectiveness of efforts to fight homelessness. In that regard, this year’s count sadly represented a 9 percent increase from the previous count of 1,068.
However, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness decreased by 15 percent, a result that was probably influenced by the opening of the Veterans Village transitional shelter community the county opened last year, as well as other state, county and local efforts to end veteran homelessness.
Other trends noted by the report included the observation that people of color disproportionately experience homelessness in Clackamas County. Four percent of the people counted in 2019 identified as Native American/Alaska Native, despite representing only 0.7 percent of the total population.
Since 2017, there was a near doubling of the number of Black or African American people surveyed, from 23 individuals to 41. People identifying as Black or African American now make up 4 percent of those counted, while representing only 1.2 percent of the county’s total population.
“Trends are consistent across the region, and we are working with our partners to address that,” said Richard Swift, Director of Clackamas County’s Health, Housing and Human Services Department. “The housing crisis has no regard for county lines, so it really requires that we collaborate regionally to find solutions.”
A larger study of the state of homelessness in the county drawing on a variety of additional sources of information, including School Liaison data, Coordinated Housing Access data, and the Housing Authority wait-list information is underway.
“The Pit Count shows there is a continued need for housing and services in the county, but it is just a snapshot of the bigger picture,” said Brenda Durbin, director of the county’s Social Services Division. “Everyone in our community deserves a safe, stable home and we are committed to continuing to provide services to our residents, especially our most vulnerable.”
The count takes place every two years and is a requirement for jurisdictions receiving homeless funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD currently provides more than $2.6 million annually to 16 Clackamas County projects. These projects provide coordinated housing assessment, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, transitional housing and permanent supportive housing services.
To view the full 2019 Point-in-Time report, visit https://www.clackamas.us/homelessness/homelesscount.html.
If you are experiencing a housing crisis or homelessness, or know someone who needs help, please call Clackamas County’s Coordinated Housing Access line at 503-655-8575.
Want to support free, useful, locally produced journalism like this? Then consider joining our monthly membership program, Canby Now Plus, for as little as $1 a month! You’ll help us sustain and expand our work, plus you can get access to exclusive content, cool merchandise and other goodies. Thanks!