PORTLAND, Ore — Volunteers are gearing up to fan out across the Portland metro area in order to count the number of people experiencing homelessness, a process that begins on Wednesday. It is the first "Point in Time" count to fully integrate Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah counties.
The count will continue until Jan. 31, with surveyors focused on gathering vital demographic information from people living on the streets, in shelters and transitional housing — wherever they slept on Jan. 24.
The new integration is part of a larger effort to better coordinate services and collaborate regionally with shared information, county officials said, guided by Metro’s Supportive Housing Services measure.
“This year’s Point in Time count reflects our values in creating a more comprehensive, data-driven response to this crisis,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson.
The three counties are working with Portland State University researchers and a project manager, Focus Strategies, to create a common methodology and analysis.
The count also demonstrates the ongoing commitment to refining how homelessness data is gathered and analyzed, according to a news release from Multnomah County. By-name lists and other data will also be incorporated to the count to expand on changes and lessons learned from previous counts.
“The Point in Time count is one data point among many that highlights the need for housing in our community. I am proud of the collaboration between counties as we strive to ensure the count captures the complex array of needs in our region,” said Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington.
This data, along with shelter and transitional housing census data from the night of Jan. 24, will produce the full PIT count. Although fundamentally an undercount, the one-night snapshots serve as a critical tool to better understand trends among people experiencing homelessness.
During the survey, volunteers will ask questions about a person's age, gender, ethnicity, race and whether they're a veteran or have experienced domestic violence.
“I’m grateful for Clackamas County’s hardworking staff and volunteers who come every year to survey our homeless residents and meet them where they’re at,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith.
Initial snapshot results from the combined data will be released in the spring. An in-depth 2023 Point in Time report will be released later in the year.
This year's count could be especially vital given the priority that new Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has placed on addressing the state's homelessness crisis since taking office in early January. Kotek declared a state of emergency over homelessness for some Oregon counties as one of her first official acts on Jan. 10.