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38,000 people experienced homelessness in Portland metro area in 2017, PSU study finds

In the study, PSU researchers used a more comprehensive definition of homelessness, including groups that aren't always included in other homeless counts.

Editor's note: The video above, from Aug. 1, 2019, is about the latest homeless count that found 22% more homeless people were living on Multnomah County streets.

PORTLAND, Ore. — About 38,000 people experienced homelessness in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties in 2017, according to a new study by Portland State University.

An additional 107,000 people experienced housing insecurity or were at risk of homelessness in the three counties in 2017, the study found.

The study projected the cost of providing housing, support, services, operations and administration over a 10-year period for those experiencing homelessness ranges from $2.6 billion to $4.1 billion.

If rent assistance was provided to all people experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity or at risk of homelessness, it would cost the three counties an estimated $8.6 billion to $21 billion over a 10-year period, the study said.

Those figures didn't include what regional jurisdictions are already spending on homelessness and homelessness prevention. It also didn't take into account the affordable housing bonds in 2016 and 2018 (about $911 million combined).

"The goal in producing this report is to provide information on the scope and scale of the challenges our communities face in addressing homelessness and housing insecurity," said Marisa Zapata, a professor of urban studies and planning and the director of PSU's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative.

RELATED: Most homeless on Multnomah County streets in a decade, 2019 count shows

In the study, PSU researchers used a more comprehensive definition of homelessness that included the following groups, which aren't always included in other homeless counts, such as the point-in-time count:

  • One-night counts of people living in shelters, cars, or on the street
  • People living with friends or family because of housing loss or economic hardship

Zapata said a more comprehensive count helps ensure more accurate representation for minorities experiencing homelessness.

"Homelessness is experienced differently within communities of color; a narrow definition of who has experienced homelessness leaves people of color out," Zapata said. "Larger estimates such as the one we have conducted in this report will help better achieve racial equity and give a more complete picture overall."

RELATED: Exclusive: See inside Portland's newest permanent homeless shelter

The report included suggestions on how to raise revenue to help pay for estimated costs, and provided recommendations on how the counties can work together to address homelessness.

"Homelessness has become increasingly visible on our streets and in our media headlines. Our overarching goal in this report is to provide information that helps the public deliberate about how to support people experiencing homelessness, and prevent future homelessness," Zapata said.

Read the full report