Lane County sees drastic increase in homelessness since pandemic
Homeless Point in Time (PIT) County also sees rises in domestic violence a chronically homeless individuals who were sheltered
Lane County released initial data from its annual Homeless Point in Time (PIT) Count this month, a three part survey which includes a count of the unsheltered and sheltered population of people experiencing homelessness, as well as a Housing Inventory Count (HIC). Every year on the last Wednesday of January, the Lane County Human Services Division, in partnership with numerous agencies and groups, conducts the one-night count.
Trends this year have seen a sharp increase in homelessness in Lane County as a whole, with the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness increasing by 72 percent in the past five years, from 1,641 individuals in 2018 to 2,284 individuals in 2023. Other trends included:
- 75 percent of homeless individuals were unsheltered, which is significantly higher than the last pre-COVID count (65 percent in January of 2020)
- The percentage of homeless individuals who had experienced domestic violence increased significantly this year, from 7.8 percent of people counted in 2022 to 19.7 percent of people counted in 2023
- The percentage of chronically homeless individuals who were sheltered increased significantly from 2020 to 2023, from 24 percent to 43 percent.
However, there was a decrease in the percentage of homeless veterans, falling from 10 percent in 2022 to 7 percent in 2023.
This year’s unsheltered count was primarily conducted by generating a report from Lane County’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). A modified version of the Homelessness By-Name List was used, which includes homeless individuals in any HMIS-participating program. Programs include street outreach, day access centers, food pantries, and other services for people experiencing homelessness. This is the third year Lane County has been approved by HUD to use this method.
To supplement this count, trained outreach workers collected surveys in areas where it was most likely that people who are unsheltered were not engaged in other services. During this year’s count, surveyors approached nearly 260 individuals and asked them to participate in the count. Approximately 35 declined to be surveyed, so were not included in the count.
Instead of an exact count of homelessness, PIT acts more as a useful tool in understanding homelessness and year-over year trends. For instance, PIT was able to count 2,284 people in the county who were homeless in January, though the count is smaller than the actual number.
“The challenge with PIT in the past is that it has been a very brief snapshot of the real picture,” Bob Teter of Siuslaw Outreach Services said. “The point in time count only reflects the number of unhoused individuals that accessed services from a designated agency or had contact with someone with Lane County’s Outreach Team on a particular day. For the first time, some agencies were able to use some of the numbers from their database systems to get a closer to accurate number. However, it still does not capture the number accurately because it is only capturing those accessing services during a brief point in time. The households are not fixed and often fluid and their location changes constantly making contact difficult.”
Locally, Teter estimates that there are approximately 200 unhoused individuals who live here year-round, while an additional 300-400 will pass through throughout the summer. While local services can be stretched thin, Teter, who has worked with various nonprofits and governments on the issue, stated there were upcoming plans to mitigate the issues surrounding homelessness.
“Our focus has been preparing for new programs and resources as the result of the governor’s All-In project,” he said. “We are having to add staff and once again do a little restructuring.”
Details on the plans will be released in the coming months. Lane County provided the following information on the PIT count:
Of the 2,824 people counted:
- 640 individuals were staying in Emergency Shelter
- 74 individuals were living in Transitional Housing designated for people who are homeless
- 2,110 individuals were without shelter
o 491 of these individuals were staying in alternative shelter programs like Safe Sleep Sites, Rest Stops, and sanctioned car camping. While these provide much-needed safe places to sleep, they do not meet the HUD definition of shelter.
- 411 homeless individuals were in households with children (117 households); 108 of those were sheltered (33 households) and 303 individuals were unsheltered (84 households)
- 197 homeless individuals were veterans; 51 were sheltered and 146 were unsheltered
- 14 homeless children were unaccompanied by adults; an additional 154 homeless youth age 18-24 were unaccompanied
- 1,170 individuals (41 percent of all individuals counted) were chronically homeless
- 1,114 people self-reported a mental health condition; 651 people self-reported substance use disorder
- This is the first year that HUD has asked communities to collect the age of adults. 552 homeless individuals were age 55-64 (165 sheltered and 387 unsheltered); 248 individuals were age 65 and older (89 sheltered and 156 unsheltered)
The Homelessness By-Name List
Each month, Lane County uses HMIS data to publish an estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county at some point during the month. This is published on the Human Services Division’s Tableau page at https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/lchsd/viz/HomelessHousingShelterInventoryandUtilizationinLaneCountyOregon/InventoryUtilizationDashboard. The criteria for this report is more expansive than what is used for the HUD PIT Count, because it looks at all services and data collected during the month rather than on one night. This year, 4,816 people were on the By-Name list during the month of January. This is significantly higher than the 2,880 individuals included in the count for the night of January 25, 2023.
Housing Inventory Count
Lane County also submitted the number of shelter and permanent housing beds used on the night of January 25, 2023. 640 of 823 Emergency Shelter beds were utilized (78%), 74 of 115 Transitional Housing beds (65%), and an additional 1,172 individuals were not homeless the night of the PIT Count because they were residing in permanent housing. The 224 available beds in Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing is much smaller than the 2,110 individuals who were unsheltered the night of the count. Additionally, some of these unoccupied beds have eligibility requirements that unsheltered individuals may have been unable to meet.
Oregon State of Emergency Due to Homelessness (All In)
Due to the increase of unsheltered homelessness in the Point in Time Count from 2017 to 2022, Lane County was included in the governor’s state of emergency due to homelessness. As a result, more than $15 million of state funding have been allocated to local agencies targeting homelessness.