PSU report: Oregon homelessness on the rise, shelter bed gap increasing

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Homelessness continues to rise in Oregon with the biggest cause being a lack of affordable and available housing, Portland State University reports.

PSU released their statewide homelessness report for 2023 on Friday, which was completed by PSU’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative.

It detailed homelessness count data at certain points in time (PIT) as well as housing and shelter bed totals acquired by the Housing Inventory Count.

The PIT data includes people experiencing homelessness, either sheltered or unsheltered. The count for 2023 found 20,100 people experiencing homelessness in Oregon on a single night.

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Key takeaways from the report are that homelessness continues to rise in Oregon, increasing by 8.5% from 2022. Additionally, the gap between shelter capacity and people experiencing homelessness continues to grow. People of color also experience homelessness at a disproportionally higher rate than white people. Furthermore, while the number of Oregonians experiencing homelessness are highest in Multnomah, Lane and Deschutes counties, the rates are also notably high in several rural and semi-rural counties.

“More people are being pushed into homelessness by rising housing prices than we are able to pull out of homelessness, even though we’re doing better and better at it,” said Jacen Greene, the assistant director of the Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative.

Although the state added 1,032 new shelter beds, the report emphasized how this increase in homelessness means the number of available beds will not meet the demand, with a statewide shelter bed gap growing by 2,304 beds in 2023.

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The report stresses that the biggest cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable and available housing.

“What we’re seeing is in places where housing is becoming more and more unaffordable like in Oregon, they’re also seeing their homelessness rates climb,” Greene told KOIN 6 News.

Almost 90% of extremely-low-income households in Oregon are paying more than 30% of their income in rent, the report says. To address that problem, the state will need to build around 140,000 housing units.

“What we really need to do is focus not just on addressing homelessness for people who are already there, but are preventing homelessness by ensuring that people have enough housing and that they can stay in housing when they have it,” Greene said.

Scott Kerman, the executive director of the non-profit Blanchet House, said homelessness is an increasingly aging community.

“We’re seeing seniors with chronic health conditions, seniors with physical disabilities, and even seniors with advanced cognitive impairment that happens naturally as people age,” Kerman said.

“These annual counts continue to be a stark reminder of the pain too many Oregonians are suffering living outside. While we must continue to strengthen the system of immediate services that unhoused people need, we also need to focus on the long-term solutions, which is more housing,” said Gov. Tina Kotek. “That’s why I’m asking the Legislature to take big, bold steps this year to help the state build more affordable housing.”

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