PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new report released this week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers an in-depth look into homelessness, both on a national and a more localized scale.
One statistic in particular takes aim at Oregon’s homeless shelter capacity and its ability to house its homeless population each night.
In short, it doesn’t look good. According to the 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, Oregon ranks 49th, when you calculate the percentage of its homeless population forced to sleep “unsheltered.”
According to the study, 60.5% of Oregon’s 13,238 homeless, or 8,002 people, go without shelter on a given night.
The only state with a higher percentage is California, where 66.4% of the homeless population sleep unsheltered.
The report goes onto say only four states are unable to shelter at least half of their population.
“You're just one bad mistake from being right where I am. Honestly, that's what I want a lot of housed people to know,” said Mistie Shaw, who’s been homeless in Portland for at least six years. The 21-year-old is now married and pregnant.
But local officials argue that Oregon and Multnomah County are doing better than this report would lead you to believe.
“We expect to have a much higher percentage of our population in shelter,” said Marc Jolin, executive director of Multnomah County’s ‘A Home for Everyone.'
In short, he said, the feds write up a report every year, but they lean on local governments to gather the data whenever they can.
In Multnomah County, that process, dubbed the ‘Point-In-Time Report’ is done every two years. The most recent one being in January 2015. The next count is set for the beginning of 2017.
“We expect that in January of 2017, when we do our next complete count both of folks sleeping outside and those sleeping in shelter, we'll have more than 700 additional shelter beds open, beyond what we did in January of 2015,” said Jolin.
That's in part due to a string of new shelters opening up across Multnomah county. The Hansen shelter, which opened over the summer, is one. It houses about 200 men and women.
Mistie Shaw is staying in the Willamette Center, which opened earlier this month in the old St. Vincent building. It’s geared toward women and couples. She and her husband agreed, getting a bed there is easier than it would have been years ago.
“I've been trying to do as much as I can to get back on my feet, and I'm almost there,” she said.