Amid a Housing Crisis, Central Oregon Faces a Steep 31% Increase in Homelessness | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Amid a Housing Crisis, Central Oregon Faces a Steep 31% Increase in Homelessness

If you had noticed an influx of homeless on our streets these past two years, then you would be correct in assuming that those experiencing hardships and finding themselves without shelter was rising. By 31 percent to be exact. The single biggest barrier participants marked? "Couldn't afford rent." The second most recorded answer was "unemployment."

The 2017 Point in Time Count — a national survey conducted every two years by the Homeless Leadership Coalition (HCL) released its findings earlier this week, and the results were startling, yet not surprising.

On an average night in the tri-county region, 778 people experience homelessness, including 238 families of which had 129 children. Increases were seen across the board, especially among veterans whom experienced a 41 precent increase, families who increased by 35 percent and the number of children increased by a whopping 30 percent.

Those living unsheltered — in their cars, tents or on the streets — rose to 35 percent. In a February 22 article, we profiled the many complex issues that face the homeless population living out on BLM land in Redmond. It's also important to note the survey was conducted on January 25, 2017, when snowfalls and colder temperatures were at their harshest.

"The number of people living unsheltered should be a wake-up call to all Central Oregonians," urged Cody Standiford, HLC Co-Chair. "The lack of affordable housing options in our region, exacerbated by the tight rental market, is pushing too many in our community out into the cold. We can do better. We had nearly 550 people, including 130 children, living unsheltered during this terrible winter. Many good efforts are underway to expand affordable housing options, but we need more, and more quickly. This is a crisis that we can solve, and we need everyone's help to do it. All people, especially children, should have a safe, stable, warm home."

Community Town Halls will be held in June to address community member concerns with additional data provided by the HLC and the OHSU Central Oregon Research Coalition. The town halls will address additional issues such as access to healthcare and causes of homelessness.

The Source Weekly explored some of the roots causes of homelessness, related to Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs and mental illness. Dr. Maryanne Straumfjord, a psychiatrist at Deschutes County Behavioral Health, noted, "Our biggest mental institution right now is jail." Straumfjord said that in her five years in the county, she has "seen the gamut" of mental illness, but predominantly sees patients with depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and psychosis. She estimates that 30 percent of her patients are currently homeless, and that mental illness, unemployment, low income and incidences of legal involvement have the greatest impact on finding and keeping housing.  You can read the full article here.

Town Halls

June 2nd at 8:00 AM
Downtown Library, Brooks Room


June 5th at 5:30 PM
Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department Community Hall

June 6
th at 5:00 PM
Location TBD

La Pine
June 1st at 5:00 PM
Mid State Electric Community Room

Warm Springs
May 31st at 5:30 PM
Family Resource Center Conference Room

June 15th at 12:00 PM
Madras St. Charles, Metolius Conference Room

To be determined

About The Author

Magdalena Bokowa

Freelancer at the Source Weekly
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