What’s The Oregon Answer To Homelessness?

Valeri Fries, Reporter

It seems every intersection with a red light lies a beggar with a cardboard sign, often times reading, “anything helps god bless”, of course this can only be seen on the surface but there are many layers beneath the surface that still haven’t been brought to light. Homelessness has been an issue in the United States since the early 1980’s and still continues to be an issue without a solution, and each year the homelessness percentage only continues to rise, Oregon being the nation’s second highest rate of unsheltered homeless people. Many factors play into homelessness but what actions have been taken to resolve these people suffering from what they can’t prevent, more importantly are they or will they be enough to make leadway to resolving this decades long issue.


There are two main trends that are largely responsible for the rise of homelessness over the past twenty to twenty five years, the first being an increasing shortage of affordable housing, and along with this the rise of poverty. Looking at data from the US Bureau of the Census in 2007 12.5% of the US population, approximately 37,300,000 million people have lived in poverty, and these statistics were not statistically different than the previous year 2006. Focusing in Oregon along the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness provided gathered data from Continuums of Care to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as of 2018, Oregon had an estimated 14,476 people experiencing homelessness on any given day.


Of the total 14,476 1,108 were family households, 1,363 were Veterans, 1,309 were unaccompanied young adults ages 18-24, and 4,321 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. Public school data reported to the US Department of Education during the 2016-2017 school year displays that an estimated 22,958 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. There are more homeless children than there are consistent homeless people, the youth are evidently inheriting poverty, and through this poverty they carry the weight of this along with trying to progress through their schooling with a dream to become self sufficient, to be able to have a place to call home.  


There are constant complaints of homeless people around their neighbourhoods, but where else are they supposed to go? There are only so many that can take advantage of open resource facilities, on top of that, how far would they need to travel to have a place to stay for a night?  With nothing, no money, they wouldn’t live in the streets, their cars, and under bridges for the fun of it, Gage Hout-Hawkins a resident of Oregon brought new ideas to light.


Hout-Hawkins says the changes that should be made to help decrease the homelessness rates are, “More programs made that provide food, shelter the needed neccessities.” There are many types of shelters that are provided such as day shelters, halfway shelters, supportive housing but of course which types of shelters are more needed in Oregon Hout-Hawkins continued, “I think it depends, each individual is different and have different needs but for now day shelters are the best option because change is still happening slowly so there needs to be immediate help to the homeless people that need it.”


Many have expressed their dislike for the homeless community whether it be because of violent behavior or develop their opinions on what they’ve been told. Where is the empathy towards these people that have nothing, Hout-Hawkins further continues, “This is plain and simple being stereotypes, and even worse people believe the stereotypes.” There are many definitions of stereotypes but the main takeaway is its a set of cognitive generalizations by beliefs, expectations, etc. about the qualities and characteristics of the members of a group or social category.


It has been forty years since homelessness throughout the United States has broken out in bizarre quantities which seems to only be getting worse, but there are things you can do to become apart of the solution to ending homelessness like donating clothes, shoes, blankets to the nearest homeless shelter. As well as volunteering your time or making donations to these shelters to further help pay for warm meals. There have also been some solutions made through our legislation like the Safe Sleeping Policy that allows homeless people to set up their own camps without it being against the law.


However, there are also new laws that have been signed in 2019 like Oregon governor Kate Brown’s rent control law that has good intentions but it does not fix the issue of high housing costs and could even make matters worse for vulnerable families that are already stricken with poverty. Overall, these laws and volunteer efforts are a great start to finding a solution through trial and error but it is certain that more needs to be done to finally find a solution in the hopefully near future.