Understanding Homelessness

Homelessness in Oregon

A 2019 report commissioned by the Oregon Community Foundation and prepared by EcoNorthwest, Homelessness in Oregon - A Review of Trends, Causes, and Policy Options, suggests that the state’s homelessness and housing dilemmas are the result of two converging crises:

  • First, an inadequate housing supply and rising rents leaving tens of thousands of Oregon children and families at risk of becoming homeless; and 
  • Second, the persistence of a smaller population of chronically homeless people in need of intensive social services as well as specialized housing.

The report highlights determinants and recent trends in Oregon:

Helpful Resources

Talking About Homelessness
Government definitions, common terms and help for humanizing the conversation are here.

Myth Busters
How well do you know homelessness? This mythbusters page helps you identify what you think is true about homelessness and what is actually true. 

Regional Housing Needs Analysis 
The solution to homelessness is housing! 

“Homelessness has declined since the Great Recession but not as much as it would have in a better functioning housing market. Oregon’s high rents make the crisis more severe than those in most states and, left unabated, they will contribute to a growing homeless population going forward. Like its West Coast neighbors, Oregon has not expanded its emergency shelter capacity to match the size of its homeless population and, in 2018, had the second highest rate of unsheltered homeless people in the country. The state also had the third highest rate of chronically homeless people in the U.S."

General trends and determinants of homelessness include the following:

  • Oregon has disproportionately large homeless populations. 
  • Homeless counts are down since the Great Recession but have edged up recently for two key subpopulations—the unsheltered homeless and the chronically homeless. 
  • High rents are to blame for the severity of the state’s homelessness crisis. 
  • Homelessness disproportionately affects many racial or ethnic minority groups. 
  • Housing instability affects many more children than conventional homeless counts would suggest.
Homelessness disproportionately affects many racial or ethnic minority groups. The African American share of the homeless population (6.0%) is more than three times their share of the general population (1.9%). Similarly, the share of homeless individuals who identify as American Indian/Alaskan Native is 3.5 times this group’s representation in the general population, and the share of homeless individuals who identify as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander is 3.25 times this group’s representation in the general population. The racial disparities in homelessness found
in Oregon mirror national data.

Source: Oregon Community Foundation: Ending Homelessness in Oregon

This imbalance has not improved over time. Multiple factors contribute to and distort the true picture of homelessness for people of color - disproportionate rates of poverty, data undercounts, barriers experienced in traditional shelter.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness: Homelessness and Racial Disparities

Permanent Solutions to Homelessness

A Coordinated Approach

To end homelessness, a community-wide coordinated approach to delivering services, housing, and programs is needed. Coordination with multiple public and private partners is critical to building equitable and sustainable strategies for preventing and ending homelessness.
Housing as the Solution
The solution to homelessness is simple – housing. Rapid re-housing is an intervention designed to quickly connect people to housing and services.
Assistance for the Most Vulnerable
Sometimes people need longer-term rental assistance and services supports to achieve stability. Permanent Supportive Housing is a proven effective, evidenced-based best practice that combines affordable housing with supports and services to more effectively serve the most vulnerable populations, including people who are or are at risk of homelessness or institutionalization.​​​​​
Designing a Crisis Response
An effective crisis response system can help people quickly exit homelessness.