Hundreds of volunteers are hitting streets throughout the metro area this week in an effort to count how many families and individuals are homeless.
The “point-in-time” count, conducted every other year, ensures continued eligibility for state and federal funding and helps area governments and social services agencies plan how to meet ongoing needs of those who are homeless.
“These counts are very helpful in terms of revealing trends in homelessness,” said Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, who volunteered for a three-hour shift outside the county’s main downtown library Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the trend is still going up.”
The last count, taken in 2011, showed a 35-percent increase in homeless families over the 2009 count, she said.
The current count will wrap up Thursday.
As part of that effort, outreach workers from a number of area non-profit organizations are fanning out across the county, knowing that downtown Portland is no longer regarded as an area where significant numbers of homeless people congregate.
Numbers gained from those efforts will be combined with information provided by programs that serve people who are unsheltered to compile a final report. The report is expected to be released in May or June.
Similar efforts are underway in Washington and Clackamas counties, as well as other jurisdictions that rely on state and federal money to help finance their own local housing efforts.
Portland and Multnomah County, for instance, divide up about $10 million annually in federal housing support.
“It’s a very critical piece of funding for us,” Kafoury said. “For that reason alone, we definitely need to do this.”