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News / Clark County News

Total number of homeless in Clark County up 5%, Point in Time Count reports

Veterans, chronically homeless saw rates dip

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter, and
Brianna Murschel, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 1, 2024, 2:22pm

Clark County’s homelessness crisis is worsening, according to new data released Monday.

This year’s 2024 Point-in-Time Count tallied 1,366 homeless people in Clark County, a 5 percent increase from 1,300 last year. The count revealed some bright spots, however, including a slight reduction in chronic homelessness.

The annual head count takes place on a single day in late January. Volunteers and outreach workers from various organizations fan out across Clark County to count people living outside and in shelters, while also connecting them to resources. The local tally feeds into a national database.

Council for the Homeless, the organization that conducts the count locally, pointed to housing costs as the main factor contributing to homelessness. Recent studies show there are 25 affordable homes per 100 low-income residents, and that Clark County residents need to earn $38 an hour in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

“The rates of homelessness in Clark County reflect the lack of housing accessible to people with low and sometimes limited incomes. There is an increased need for supportive services to help people stabilize and maintain their housing,” said Sesany Fennie-Jones, executive director for Council for the Homeless.

By the numbers

The 1,366 people experiencing homelessness in Clark County included 146 families, 87 young adults, six unaccompanied minors, 110 seniors and 39 veterans.

Other numbers:

  • 323 people experienced chronic homelessness, prolonged homelessness that lasts a year or longer
  • 669 people were completely unsheltered
  • 483 people were in an emergency shelter, a place where people live temporarily before moving on to more permanent housing. A Safe Stay is considered an emergency shelter. Clark County has 421 year-round beds.
  • 214 people were in transitional housing, a place that provides temporary housing with supportive services. Clark County has 237 beds.
  • 532 were people of color: 13 percent were Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander; 12 percent Hispanic/Latinx; seven percent Black/African American; two percent American Indian/Alaska Native; 1 percent Asian

CLARK COUNTY SHELTER ACCESS POINTS

Council for the Homeless Housing Hotline: 360-695-9677

YWCA Clark County SafeChoice 24/7 Crisis Hotline Domestic Violence Survivors: 1-800-695-0167 or 360-695-0501

Open House Ministries: 360-737-0300

Janus Youth Oak Bridge: 360-891-2634

Housing helps

Clark County’s population of people who are chronically homeless (that is, homeless for a year or longer) decreased from 344 to 323, or 6 percent, since last year, according to the Point-in-Time Count.

The number of people living outside fell by 0.4 percent, the first decrease in nine years.

Both can be attributed to the growth of shelter options in the county, city officials said.

Last year, the city opened two Safe Stay shelters, which each have 20 sleeping sheds for people exiting homelessness. People in emergency shelters increased by 13 percent due to the addition of the third and fourth Safe Stay communities, according to the report.

“There’s been the question about whether or not adding additional shelter capacity would be worthwhile because people may not want to go into shelter. But I think this (data) shows that’s not the case. People will go inside if there are options available to them,” said Jamie Spinelli, Vancouver’s homelessness response manager.

Amy Reynolds, executive director of Share, said the nonprofit was excited to see more people in emergency shelters. Share operates two emergency shelters and a winter overflow shelter.

“From our end, that seems to say that we were serving larger families,” Reynolds said.

So far this year, Share has served 109 children through its emergency family shelters. Last year, Share served 195 children.

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“Shelter is meant to be there as a safety net for people. Then hopefully they can get that addressed and we can make room for somebody else who might be struggling,” Reynolds said. “But we’d like to increase the pace that we’re able to get people successfully housed.”

Spinelli said the Point-in-Time Count shows the need for more resources.

“It’s a wonderful thing for any number of people to move into housing. What we want, though, is getting that number higher,” Spinelli said. “Many of the folks moving into housing need supportive systems.”

Still struggling

Although the Point-in-Time Count found veterans and unaccompanied minors are experiencing homelessness at lower rates, some groups are still struggling.

Families living outside with children increased 44 percent, with 19 more families in 2024 than 2023.

Approximately 533 people of color are homeless in Clark County. Of those, 12 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 13 percent are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 7 percent are Black. People of color account for 39 percent of the homeless population but only 19 percent of Clark County’s total population, according to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The number of homeless survivors of domestic abuse in Clark County decreased from 113 to 98, or 13 percent, according to the Point-in-Time Count. But Beth Landry, vice president of YWCA, said a vast majority of domestic violence survivors aren’t counted.

“Every person who’s experiencing domestic violence and attempting to flee that situation, whether that’s actively fleeing in the moment or is attempting to flee and has no safe housing option available — is homeless,” Landry said. “The Point-in-Time count does not capture survivors with their abusers who are trying to flee.”

Hope on the horizon

Leaders from the Council for the Homeless caution residents in interpreting the results from one year’s numbers.

“The Point-in-Time Count is somewhat problematic to look at, because it’s just that snapshot, but it still gives us data and allows us to look at other trends. I’m glad that we as a community have been able to serve people who are struggling,” Reynolds of Share said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep making progress.”

Later this month, Council for the Homeless will release data from the Homeless Crisis Response System, a more comprehensive set of data that breaks down the homeless population by various demographics.

Housing leaders say that there are many things in the works that will help the county decrease homelessness numbers going forward.

A proposed 150-bed shelter, which city officials refer to as a “bridge shelter,” will decrease homelessness in the community, Spinelli said.

“The goal of all of our spaces — the Safe Stays and the future bridge shelter — are to get people connected to those wraparound supports that walk alongside them as they figure their path out of homelessness,” Spinelli said. “That’s going to look different for a lot of people, but it at least gets them on a path versus being outside and floundering.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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