Jan 3, 2024 - News

Homelessness in Oregon hits record high in 2023

A photo of tents under a tree.

Portland had the highest percentage of unsheltered families experiencing homelessness in 2023. Photo: Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oregon and Portland led the nation in homelessness among families and youth in 2023.

  • That's according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's annual Homelessness Assessment Report, based on point-in-time estimates from January 2023 released last month.

Driving the news: Of all major cities, the Portland area had the highest percentage of unsheltered families experiencing homelessness in 2023 — at 74%.

  • It was the only major city to report that more than half of its homeless families with children were unsheltered.

Statewide, Oregon had the highest percentage of unsheltered, unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness in January 2023 at nearly 70%. That statistic increased by about one-third between 2022 and 2023.

  • The state saw the second-highest total percentage of people experiencing homelessness who were unsheltered, at 65% — or about 13,000 of about 20,000 total homeless residents in 2023.
  • The number of Oregon families experiencing homelessness increased by 16% between 2023 and 2022.

Reality check: Some advocates believe point-in-time counts — where officials and volunteers count sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night or throughout several days — can be misleading and may drastically underestimate the true number of houseless individuals.

Zoom in: Blanchet House, a homeless service provider, told Axios demand for meals increased by 27% last year — the nonprofit served more than 315,000 meals in its Old Town cafe, according to executive director Scott Kerman.

Flashback: Since 2007, Oregon has "frequently reported the highest rate of unsheltered family homelessness in the nation," the report notes.

  • Nationwide, the agency's report shows the highest number of individuals experienced chronic patterns of homelessness this year since federal tracking began nearly two decades ago.

Between the lines: In the year before January 2023, Oregon communities reported that more people had lost housing due to climate events including wildfires, coastal flooding, heavy snowstorms and northern Oregon's tornadoes, the report notes.

What we're watching: Despite cities across the state working to increase shelter capacity, the lack of affordable housing and the decline in housing production continues to contribute to Oregon's homelessness crisis.

  • Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties were expected to release their full 2023 point-in-time count by the end of 2023, but according to a spokesperson for Oregon Housing and Community Services, the report will be released "later this month."
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