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Point-in-time count to look at impact of pandemic on Multnomah County's homeless population

This will be the first count to determine the size of Multnomah County's homeless population since 2019.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After three years, the point-in-time count is back to determine how many homeless people live in Multnomah County. The count is supposed to happen at least every other year, but it was postponed in 2021 because of the pandemic.

On Thursday morning, crews from Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare prepared to go out and survey homeless populations across the county. The count started on Jan. 26 and will continue through Feb. 1. 

Unlike previous counts, this year the survey will include data on how the pandemic may have affected people experiencing homelessness. 

Michael Phelps, program supervisor with Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, said in addition to getting demographic information, crews would be asking some new questions.

"The researchers added questions about COVID and how COVID has impacted them, and if COVID is a direct cause of homelessness now," Phelps said. 

RELATED: Multnomah County begins postponed Point in Time homeless count

The data will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help advocate for more social services and funding. 

Back in 2019, Multnomah County found that more than 4,000 people were living on the streets, shelters or in transitional housing. When it came to people just living on the streets, the number was 2,037, which was a record high.

Phelps said he thinks the numbers could be higher this year.

"Talking to people, there were definitely folks that answered yes, I am homeless now because of the COVID pandemic," Phelps said. "I think we will continue to see that."

Paul Hunter is homeless and has been living in his car for the past six months. He was part of the homeless count, and crews also brought him food, water and blankets to stay warm.

"It's kind of embarrassing being out here like this," Hunder said. "If it's going to help somebody else out, then whatever."

The data is expected to be compiled by the summer. 

RELATED: 'There's a lot of work to do right now': Downtown Portland businesses eye return of shoppers

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