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Point in Time count finds homelessness increasing in Clark County

Numbers up 21% over 2020; emergency shelter expansion lauded

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
6 Photos
According to the 2022 Point in Time count, people staying in emergency shelters increased 83 percent from 2020 levels due to a substantial increase in the number of emergency shelter beds. Bertha's Place and Bertha's Too, two large shelters for woman and seniors that began operating earlier this year, are responsible for that increase. The number of sheltered seniors aged 62 or older also increased 157 percent as a result of prioritizing that population for the new Bertha's shelters. Seniors experiencing homelessness in Clark County increased 57 percent from 2020, with 97 seniors.
According to the 2022 Point in Time count, people staying in emergency shelters increased 83 percent from 2020 levels due to a substantial increase in the number of emergency shelter beds. Bertha's Place and Bertha's Too, two large shelters for woman and seniors that began operating earlier this year, are responsible for that increase. The number of sheltered seniors aged 62 or older also increased 157 percent as a result of prioritizing that population for the new Bertha's shelters. Seniors experiencing homelessness in Clark County increased 57 percent from 2020, with 97 seniors. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A recent survey conducted by Council for the Homeless found that the number of people experiencing homelessness in Clark County increased by 21 percent compared with 2020.

However, the number of people staying in emergency shelters increased 83 percent due to a substantial increase in the number of available emergency shelter beds compared to 2020.

During an annual census of the homeless population known as the Point in Time count, survey takers counted 1,197 people, including 625 people living outdoors on Feb. 24, 2022. On Jan. 30, 2020, the last time the Point in Time count was conducted, survey takers counted 916 people, including 516 people living outdoors.

The results confirm what many have noticed in the community: Homelessness is on the rise.

“The overall increase in homelessness definitely jumps out,” said Andy Silver, chief operating officer for the Vancouver Housing Authority, shortly after reviewing the survey results. “I think it corresponds to what we see and experience in our community with the continued increases in rent. It’s not surprising, but it’s tragic.”

2022 homelessness by the numbers

The 1,197 unhoused people counted on Feb. 24 included 122 families, 74 young adults, 21 unaccompanied minors, 96 seniors and 43 veterans.

Of the 1,197 counted, 57 percent were men and 43 percent were women.

625 people were unsheltered.

389 people were in an emergency shelter.

183 people were in transitional housing.

223 people were chronically homeless.

51 were survivors of domestic abuse.

27 percent were people of color. (People of color make up 13 percent of Clark County’s population, according to the most recent census data.)

The results aren’t all bad news, however. People staying in emergency shelters increased 83 percent over 2020 levels due to a substantial increase in the number of emergency shelter beds. Bertha’s Place and Bertha’s Too, two large shelters for women and seniors that began operating earlier this year, are responsible for that increase.

The number of sheltered seniors age 62 or older also increased 157 percent as a result of prioritizing that population for the new Bertha’s shelters.

There were 97 seniors experiencing homelessness on Feb. 24 in Clark County, according to the survey, a 57 percent increase from January of 2020.

“The increase in seniors experiencing homelessness is something that’s been called out over the years in the Point in Time count and in the annual system data that Council for the Homeless puts out,” Silver said. “It’s nice to see how policy decisions can have an impact on the numbers. Being able to open Bertha’s Place and to prioritize helping that population was great. We’d love to be able to get them into permanent housing, but shelter is a still positive option.”

One worrying development is the increase in unsheltered adults with children, Silver said.

According to the results, 122 families with children were experiencing homelessness in Clark County on Feb. 24, and 46 of those families were unsheltered.

People experiencing chronic homelessness also increased, with 219 people having experienced homelessness in Clark County for more than a year.

Addressing those populations is going to be the next big step for the Vancouver Housing Authority and Clark County as a whole, Silver said.

Some developments aimed at addressing those populations are already up and running, such as the Tenny Creek Assisted Living Facility, a three-story, 40-unit facility that provides critical housing and support for formerly homeless individuals with complex behavioral and physical health challenges. The facility opened in May.

The Vancouver Housing Authority is now working to open The Meridian — 46 apartments of supportive housing with services provided by Sea Mar Community Services Northwest — and to expand Lincoln Place, a “housing-first” complex, which means people don’t have to be substance-free to live there.

“Between those three, that will help with chronic homeless and unsheltered people living in encampments that we see around the community,” Silver said.

There is a substantial amount of work happening to address homelessness in Clark County, but until housing becomes more affordable, homelessness will continue to be a reality, Silver said.

“Until we’re able to build enough housing — not just affordable housing, but all types of housing — to meet people’s needs, we will continue to see these numbers increase, even though there’s so much work being done,” he said.

To view the results of the survey, visit councilforthehomeless.org/point-in-time-count.

Council for the Homeless will host a webinar at 5:30 p.m. July 12 where staff will review the results of the survey and provide analysis on trends, areas to celebrate and opportunities for improvement. To sign up for the webinar, visit facebook.com/CouncilfortheHomeless.

The Point in Time count, required by state law and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helps inform homeless services, but it is not considered comprehensive, according to Council for the Homeless.

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