For Tom Misik and his family, every day starts and ends with a question: Where will they be staying?
Misik, a disabled Army veteran, has been homeless since January. He moves the small trailer he shares with his wife and teenage daughter from place to place, parking at a south Salem park during the day.
"At night, I can't tell you one day to the next where we're going to be," said Misik. "I'm pretty well frustrated because we're doing everything we can."
Misik and his family are among the more than 1,600 people in the Salem area who sleep outside each night. Their names are also among those of close to 10,000 other families on waiting lists for affordable housing.
"We're inundated," said Andy Wilch, the Administrator of the Salem Housing Authority. "We have close to 10,000 households waiting on a waiting list. The average wait is roughly three years, maybe more.”
Similar to what's happened in Portland, rents in Salem have been climbing steadily with the rapid growth in the housing market.
Wilch said all the Section-8 vouchers assigned to his office by the Federal Housing Authority have already been given out, and the amount the government allocates per person hasn't kept pace with rising rents.
"For a 1-bedroom unit, that was $547 two years ago, and now it's $690,” he said. “So the more we spend for our clients, the fewer clients we're serving."
Misik said his bad knees, arthritis, and occasional seizures have kept him from finding a job. He and his family survive on just the $1,100 a month he gets from Social Security.
"The cheapest three bedrooms we've found are between $1,200 and $2,000 a month," said Misik.
Wilch said local lawmakers are aggressively looking for solutions to the city's housing crisis, but said whatever strategy comes together will require a significant amount of money.
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