One-night Survey Fines 3,200 People Homeless

Oregonian December 18, 1991

More than 3,200 Oregonians stayed in shelters or emergency housing on Nov. 14, the night of a statewide count of the homeless. Nearly 600 of them were children.

The state Department of Housing and Community Services, which conducted the survey with the Oregon Shelter Network, still hasn’t heard from 17 of the 140 agencies that participated in the one-time count. The state will release a final tally on Dec. 30, said Shelly Cullin, the department’s homeless program specialist.

Past homeless surveys have come up with much different findings. Last year, federal census takers counted 3,818 homeless people staying in shelters or living on the streets in their one-day count of the homeless population. Also in 1990, the Oregon Shelter Network counted 2,800 people staying in emergency housing in its one-night count.

Cullin believes the Census Bureau count was too high because of flaws in its methodology and that the shelter network’s 1990 count was too low because workers did not get a count from all of the shelter agencies.

Despite discrepancies in the counts, the bottom line is that too many people are homeless, said John Sandusky, chairman of the state shelter network.

“It seems that every time we do a survey, it shows a very large number of people who don’t have a place to be,” said Sandusky, who coordinates the shelter program for Tillamook County.

The count includes people who stayed in emergency shelters, in “safe homes” for victims of domestic violence, and in motels using emergency housing vouchers.

The survey found that 57 percent of the homeless on Nov. 14 were staying in shelters outside the Portland metroplitan area. In some small communities, shelters cannot meet the demand. Tillamook County, for instance, housed 203 people in emergency shelters in the 1990-91 fiscal year and turned *away another 200 due to lack of space, Sandusky said. More than half of those who stayed in the shelter were Tillamook County residents before becoming homeless, he said.

The survey also found that:

*On Nov. 14, 2,668 adults and 575 children were in emergency housing. There were 314 families, including 228 single-parent families, with a total of 1,046 parents and children.

*Among single adults, men outnumbered women three to one. There were 1,651 single men and 546 single women in the count.

*Twenty-eight percent of the adults were between the ages of 18 and 30, and 29 percent were between the ages of 31 and 44.

*Twelve percent of the children were under age 5, and 15 percent were between ages 5 and 17. About 250 of the 300 school-age children were enrolled in school.

*Two-thirds of the homeless were white. Hispanics accounted for 20 percent; blacks, 11 percent; Indians, 4 percent; and Asians, 1 percent.

Sandusky said the survey will bring attention to the problem.

“I hope that people will realize that homelessness isn’t going to go away unless we provide services for people who are already homeless, and affordable housing for people on verge of becoming homeless,” he said.

But he admitted that many people are overwhelmed by the need.

“I think most of us don’t want to see the size of the problem,” he said. “Everybody has his own troubles.”