Salem — The State of Oregon has recently released new numbers showing a 37% increase in homelessness across the state, mostly representing newly homeless families. During a one-night count in January 2009 Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) and its partners identified over 17,000 Oregonians experiencing homelessness.
Data was collected during the January One-Night Homeless Count by OHCS partners throughout the state and presented to the Ways and Means Committee in May. The report shows that two-thirds of Oregon’s 560,000 low-income households pay more than one-third of their household income for housing. OHCS believes the increase in poverty and homelessness in Oregon is due largely to heavy job losses and the resulting inability to pay rent.
The Oregon Department of Education’s Homeless School Count for 2007-2008 (released September 2008) revealed a similar finding: during the 2007-08 school year, 15,859 students experienced some kind of homelessness — almost double the 2003-2004 level.
Housing advocates are asking the Oregon Legislature to pass SB 5535, which would issue lottery-backed bonds to fund housing programs that preserve existing subsidized rental housing and manufactured home parks. To help keep Oregonians in their homes $19.4 million in Lottery-backed bonds is needed in 2009-2011.
“Hardworking people should be able to afford housing and still have enough money for groceries and other basic necessities,” said Janet Byrd, Chair of the Housing Alliance, “This report issued by OHCS shows that too many Oregonians are homeless and even more are in danger of becoming homeless; and more must be done to ensure people can stay in their homes. The State’s report on homelessness adds a sense of urgency to the Oregon State Senate and House Joint Ways and Means Committee budget deliberations.”
According to the OHCS report nearly 60 percent of the people identified during the count as homeless received no services or shelter.
In testimony before the Oregon Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee last month OHCS reported that since 2000 Oregon has lost 67 manufactured dwelling parks that provided space for 2,664 homes. As of February 2009, three manufactured dwelling parks with 157 spaces were going through the closure process.
Those affected by these closures are vulnerable to homelessness, according to Peter Hainley, Executive Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
"Manufactured dwelling parks are an important source of affordable housing, and there aren't a lot of affordable alternatives for the seniors and disabled folks living in them,” said Hainley, which makes resident ownership a viable option for manufactured housing residents across the state. “If those parks close, more people will end up living on the streets."
To find out more about the Housing Alliance, go to: http://www.oregonhousingalliance.org/