Portland-metro area counties collaborating to survey homelessness

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:06 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The Portland metro area takes a united front in surveying homelessness in 2023.

For the first time, Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties are all working together for the annual Point-in-Time Count, which surveys how many people are experiencing homelessness in the community, and gives local, state, and federal officials a better indication at where to direct resources and funding to fight the issue.

From today until the end of the month, metro areas and counties across the United States are counting and reporting point-in-time data to the federal government.

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People living on the streets are asked a range of questions by outreach workers such as how long they have been experiencing homelessness, how many times they have stayed in shelters in the last year, and other basic personal information.

Dr. Marisa Zapata at Portland State University’s homelessness research and action collaborative is in charge of this year’s count for Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties. Her team tracks in real-time what areas have been surveyed, and which organization is in charge of counting specific areas.

“You can see what responses are happening, how many responses that we have,” said Zapata.

Zapata says having the counties combine their count this year will result in more concrete numbers and is more efficient.

“Not everyone has to hire their separate consultant to help them do what they want,” she said. “So we end up spending less money.”

Communities across the country participate in the Point-in-Time Count every year at the end of January, so local governments can remain eligible for federal housing and homelessness funding. Given new Oregon Governor Tina Kotek’s recent action declaring homelessness a state of emergency in Oregon, Zapata says this year’s count is critical.

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“I think what this count does is that it will continue to reinforce and demonstrate the amount of funding that we need to really be able to create the affordable housing access both in terms of the actual units, and also dealing with policy issues.”

Those working on the project say they are over 400 people helping count between the county staff and nonprofits.

Initial numbers from this survey are expected to be released in spring.

Findings from Multnomah County’s 2022 Point-in-Time Count can be viewed here.