Expanded Multnomah County homeless count begins Wednesday

Expanded Multnomah County homeless count begins Wednesday

The most ambitious homeless count ever undertaken in the Portland area will be conducted through Jan. 29 by an unprecedented number of researchers.

The most ambitious count of homeless people ever undertaken in the Portland region will begin on Jan 23 and continue through Jan. 29.

The every-other-year Point in Time count is required by the federal government. in the past, it has mostly been conducted on one night. This year it will last a full week and be undertaken by a record number of outreach workers, service providers and volunteers, coordinated by Portland State University and the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS).

JOHS Director Marc Jolin says the count is important, even though the information it produces is limited.

"The count doesn't provide every answer. It doesn't tell us why someone became homeless or what it will take to help any particular person end their homelessness. But it's a critical tool for helping us understand the current level and nature of the need in our community. It's vital data that helps guide our community's investments in ending homelessness,"says Jolin.

The previous Multnomah County count was in early 2017. It tallied 4,177 people experiencing homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently combined that finding with 2018 homeless numbers from around the rest of the state to conclude that Oregon ranks second for the total number of homeless people living on the streets.

According to the department's 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 62 percent of the homeless population was found to be living in unsheltered conditions at last count — including everything from makeshift camps to parked cars or crowded city sidewalks.

This year's Multnomah County count is part of an ongoing effort to improve the information available about the homeless population in the Portland region by making it as comprehensive as possible. For starters, it will stretch over a full week, not just one night, like all previous counts.