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2 Core Problems to Homeless Crisis in Portland

New study says housing costs, lack of resources are core problems to homeless crisis

The study found two overlapping core problems. One is the recent spike in Portland’s cost of housing and how it’s forcing more than 56,000 households to spend more than half their income on rent.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A new, in-depth report is taking aim at the root causes of Portland’s homeless crisis and potential remedies. Staff at ECONorthwest released the study, titled Homelessness in the Portland Region and commissioned by the Oregon Community Foundation. President John Tapogna said one jumping off point came from a study commissioned by KGW last year, as part of the investigative piece Tent City, USA.


In the study, Portlanders were asked if they thought the homeless crisis resulted from the area’s rising cost of housing, and the prevalence of health and addiction issues.

Answers were split, 51 percent to 43 percent.


“If you’re in a space like that where the public disagrees about fundamental root cause of a problem, you’re going to have a hard time advancing public policy,” Tapogna said on Wednesday.


For months, staff at ECONorthwest have been digging into data tied to the housing crisis, including Multnomah County’s annual “Point in Time Count”. They also gathered statistics on the area’s rising cost of housing and Portland’s inventory of affordable housing. As a result, the study found two overlapping core problems.

1. The recent spike in Portland’s cost of housing and how it’s forcing more than 56,000 households to spend more than half their income on rent.


“You don’t know among that population who is going to encounter a crisis,” said Tapogna. “Some might be evicted. Some might lose a job. Others may have a domestic violence episode…that will trip them into an episode of homelessness.”


Tied to that, researchers pointed out funding to government subsidy programs have failed to keep up with rising rents. That includes “Housing Choice Vouchers”, also known as Section 8, which cover the difference between 30 percent of a recipient’s income and their rent.


“Section 8 rent subsidies have not changed with need in Portland,” said Tapogna. “If the price of housing is going up, all those programs become more expensive.”


2. The other core cause of Portland’s crisis, according to the study, is the lack of resources aimed at getting the city’s “chronically homeless” off the streets.


“There are about 1,700 or so individuals in this region who do have some serious personal circumstances that they’re working with, be it mental illness, physical disabilities, problems with substance abuse,” said Tapogna.



Credit: KGW8

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