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Official: Contrary To Common Belief, Majority Of Unhoused People Are Local

Brian Bull

The perception that most homeless people are from out of town isn’t accurate, says a local official charged with analyzing the issue.

Sarai Johnson is Housing and Shelter Strategist for the City of Eugene and Lane County. Looking at September’s homeless count of roughly 3,800 people, she says most have chosen to stay in areas they became unhoused.

A slide during Sarai Johnson's presentation at a recent economic summit shows a breakdown of where homeless people are in Oregon.

"On any given month we have 70 to 75 percent of the population of unhoused or unsheltered people living in Eugene. About 10 to 11 percent is living in Springfield," said Johnson. 

"Only 21 people reported from being out of state. And only 27 people reported being from other parts of Oregon.”

Familiarity with an area, as well as personal connections and knowledge of immediate services often keep an unhoused person in their community.

The cities of Cottage Grove, Florence, and Oakridge follow Eugene-Springfield for homeless populations.

Johnson says rents outpacing wages remains a factor. She made her remarks at a recent economic summitfor Eugene-Springfield businesses.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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