The numbers are in. Jackson County Continuum of Care has released a Point in Time (PIT) report on the number of individuals who are experiencing homelessness, their unmet needs and demographic trends surrounding homelessness.
The PIT count located 732 individuals experiencing homelessness in Jackson County, an increase of 99 persons since the 2017 count (a 15.6% increase in one year). The 2018 count is the highest count in the last 7 years. A 10-year analysis reveals the highest count was 1,049 (in 2011) and the lowest was 527 (in 2016).
“The count attempts to capture people who are sheltered or unsheltered to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the United States” says Continuum of Care Homeless Prevention Coordinator Constance Wilkerson.
The official night of this year’s count for Jackson County was Monday, Jan 22 when teams of volunteers surveyed people experiencing homelessness on the street, in camps and in areas where people stay in their cars. Surveys were also completed at various sites from January 22 thru January 27.
The count was conducted by staff from homeless assistance agencies like ACCESS, county and city employees, and hundreds of volunteers throughout the state. Along with the total street count of the unsheltered population and data on the homeless population living in emergency shelters and transitional housing, information was gathered on a wide range of characteristics of the homeless population such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, veteran status and disability status.
Chronic homelessness is on the rise, which indicates that the length of time individuals or families are homeless is increasing. In 2018, 1 in 3 homeless residents of Jackson County was identified as chronically homeless compared to 1 in 4 in 2017. This is an increase of 32% in one year. Volunteers were able to expand the count into more rural areas this year – this could account for some of the increase in data capture.
HUD defines an individual who is experiencing chronic homelessness as a person who has a disabling condition and who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or an individual who has a disabling condition and who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.
Disabling conditions include:
- A diagnosable substance abuse disorder
- A serious mental illness
- A developmental disability
- A chronic physical illness or disability, including the co-occurrence of two or more of these conditions
- A disabling condition that limits an individual’s ability to work or perform one or more activities of dialing living
“One of the purposes of the count is to aid in funding for our community from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but the main purpose is to gather data on people in Jackson County who are homeless so that we can better serve them,” says ACCESS Homeless Management Information System Specialist George Jarvis.
Several subpopulations experienced an increase in numbers in the 2018 count:
- 95 homeless Veterans were counted in 2017; 117 were counted in 2018
- 15 homeless parenting youth (individuals ages 18 to 24) in 2017; 54 in 2018
Many Individuals experiencing homelessness have income, but it is inadequate to fund housing, partially due to these factors in Jackson County:
- 5% vacancy rate of available housing
- Average monthly rental costs exceed what wages can support ̶
- 50% average median income (AMI) for household of one in Jackson County = $18,800
- Average rent for 1-bedroom in Jackson County = $950
- Annual rent = $11,400
- 50% AMI = 61% of income goes towards rent (not including utilities)
- HUD Fair Market Rent is $676 (including all utilities)
- On May 1, 2018, 556 rentals were available on Craigslist; only four were close to “fair market rent”
- Oregon does not regulate rents / no rent control
The root causes for homelessness in Jackson County were found to be:
- Loss of job
- Poor rental history and history of evictions
- Family trauma/crisis – divorce, family disputes
- Domestic violence/sexual abuse/stalking
- Loss of housing upon death of a relative
- Mental illness
- Job injury
- Physical disability
- Health crisis
- Substance use disorder
- Low wages
- Rent increases exceed ability to pay
- Very low vacancy rate
- Unexpected bills
- Education – cannot pay rent and tuition
With the increasing need and the diminishing resources, agencies and agencies like ACCESS continue to creatively search for alternate resources to meet the needs of this growing population.