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Lane County’s unhoused population jumps 72% since 2018

 Tent, cart, and RV on city street
Brian Bull
A row of vehicles and tents line a Eugene street.

Homelessness across Lane County has spiked over a five-year period, according to the latest Point in Time (PIT) Count.

The annual one-night counts are required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as Oregon Housing and Community Services. The information gathered leads to funding for housing and services for the homeless community.

The 2023 PIT Count for Lane County was carried out by trained outreach workers on the evening of January 25. It found 2,824 people who were homeless, with 2,110 of those lacking shelter.

Carly Walker, the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) supervisor, told KLCC that this number shows a 72% increase in homelessness across Lane County since 2018.

“All sorts of factors we could think about, including the pandemic, inflation, rising housing costs,” explained Walker. “I think it's harder for everyone to pay their bills right now. As well, just the whole nation has seen those types of increases.”

This was the first year that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asked partners to collect ages of adults. Lane County showed 552 homeless individuals were between 55-64 years old, with roughly 250 age 65 or older.

 Man sleeping on sidewalk
Brian Bull
A homeless man near the downtown area sleeps on the sidewalk next to his cart of belongings.

PIT Count highlights provided by Lane County:

Of the 2,824 people counted:

• 640 individuals were staying in Emergency Shelter

• 74 individuals were living in Transitional Housing designated for people who are homeless

• 2,110 individuals were without shelter

o 491 of these individuals were staying in alternative shelter programs like Safe Sleep Sites, Rest Stops, and sanctioned car camping. While these provide much-needed safe places to sleep, they do not meet the HUD definition of shelter.


• 411 homeless individuals were in households with children (117 households); 108 of those were sheltered (33 households) and 303 individuals were unsheltered (84 households)

• 197 homeless individuals were veterans; 51 were sheltered and 146 were unsheltered

• 14 homeless children were unaccompanied by adults; an additional 154 homeless youth age 18-24 were unaccompanied

• 1,170 individuals (41% of all individuals counted) were chronically homeless

• 1,114 people self-reported a mental health condition; 651 people self-reported substance use disorder


• The total number of individuals experiencing homelessness has increased by 72% in the past 5 years, from 1,641 individuals in 2018 to 2,284 individuals in 2023

• 75% of homeless individuals were unsheltered, which is significantly higher than the last pre-COVID count (65% in January of 2020)

• The percentage of homeless individuals who had experienced domestic violence increased significantly this year, from 7.8% of people counted in 2022 to 19.7% of people counted in 2023

• The percentage of chronically homeless individuals who were sheltered increased significantly from 2020 to 2023, from 24% to 43%

• The percentage of homeless individuals who were veterans decreased, from 10% of all homeless individuals in 2022 to 7% in 2023.

The Homelessness By-Name List

Each month, Lane County uses HMIS data to publish an estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness in the county at some point during the month. This is published on the Human Services Division’s Tableau page. The criteria for this report is more expansive than what is used for the HUD PIT Count, because it looks at all services and data collected during the month rather than on one night. This year, 4,816 people were on the By-Name list during the month of January. This is significantly higher than the 2,880 individuals included in the count for the night of January 25, 2023.

Housing Inventory Count

Lane County also submitted the number of shelter and permanent housing beds used on the night of January 25, 2023. 640 of 823 Emergency Shelter beds were utilized (78%), 74 of 115 Transitional Housing beds (65%), and an additional 1,172 individuals were not homeless the night of the PIT Count because they were residing in permanent housing. The 224 available beds in Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing is much smaller than the 2,110 individuals who were unsheltered the night of the count. Additionally, some of these unoccupied beds have eligibility requirements that unsheltered individuals may have been unable to meet.

Oregon State of Emergency Due to Homelessness (All In)

Due to the increase of unsheltered homelessness in the Point in Time Count from 2017 to 2022, Lane County was included in the governor’s state of emergency due to homelessness. As a result, more than $15 million of state funding have been allocated to local agencies targeting homelessness. There is more information about All In on the county’s All In page, and more information about the Human Services Division’s work at lanecounty.org/HSD.

Walker also told KLCC that when homeless people refuse to be surveyed, they have a number of reasons and concerns.

“What is the purpose of us asking them those questions?” she began. “I think my experience and certainly what I've heard provide from providers is that often people who are experiencing homelessness have had negative experiences with other service providers before, or they've had needs that other providers weren't able to help them with. Or they have had some sort of traumatic experience that involved one of these social systems.

“So I think there are people who are wary of talking. ‘Why do you want to know that information of me? What are you going to be doing with that information?’”

As to the $15 million in state funding, Walker said, “We've got some good things up on our website that show which programs were funded and for what. Those programs are just getting off the ground today. But really, I think the Governor has taken note particularly in how much our unsheltered count grew.”

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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