PORTLAND -- The latest numbers are in. Portland's homeless problem is worsening, despite tens and tens of millions dollars spent on the problem over the last five years.
The most recent count shows homelessness is up seven percent overall. There are now more than 1,700 people sleeping on the streets and about 1,000 more sleeping in shelters and low-rent or subsidized motels.
That's too many, said Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, and we have to redouble our efforts but it can't obscure the fact that we've had great success with our existing programs.
The city has placed 7,000 homeless people into stable housing since it began its decade-long anti-homelessness mission five years ago.
Continued high levels of unemployment, cuts in state and federal health services and other factors have greatly challenged that mission, city officials said.
A Vietnam veteran named David who lost his home to bank foreclosure says he's not surprised by the numbers.
I predict homelessness is going to be on the rise, he said. I'm in a homeless shelter right now. I'm trying to get legal assistance ... I've got no money. I've got to come up with some money to get my home back and I will get my home back.
Fish says the city must stay the course.
We know what the long-term solution is: homes with services for people that need it, he said. It's expensive but we get great outcomes and it's humane, pragmatic and I think it's the right thing to do.