Linn County in March declared unsheltered homelessness is threatening “widespread human suffering.” That move just secured a state funding infusion.
Gov. Tina Kotek in January declared a statewide emergency over homelessness, freeing up $40 million to find housing for some of the state’s thousands who live without permanent shelter. The governor’s response targeted urban centers like Bend, Eugene and Portland in what she called a “man-made disaster.”
Now, Linn County, along with Clatsop and Malheur counties, have been added to that list.
Kotek’s [original] order emphasized the counties anchored around Bend, Eugene, Medford, Salem and Portland, where official counts of people without any shelter increased by 50% or more since 2017.
The remaining 26 of Oregon’s 36 counties are administered as one unit by the Continuum of Care program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that funnels pass-through funding to applicants, usually community action agencies or housing authorities, based on projected need.
Linn County was among the 26 counties overlooked in the orders that rely on an official annual count of unhoused populations.
Linn was among the cities and counties that wrote to the governor, asking her to think beyond the metro areas and the point-in-time count frequently criticized for wildly undercounting homelessness.A couple of weeks ago, representatives of Corvallis Housing First, the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center, and Pathfinder Clubhouse met with Gov. Kotek to talk about behavioral health, homelessness and housing, and Measure 110, which decriminalized some drug use.
“It made me feel a little better that she spent so much time talking with us about our experiences here,” Myhre (Executive Director of Corvallis Housing First) said.
However, as Myhre pointed out, Corvallis is consistently among the most rent-burdened communities in Oregon, and more housing is needed to address the growing homeless population in the mid-Willamette Valley.
“It’s not nearly enough money,” said Executive Director Pegge McGuire of Community Services Consortium. “There is not enough money — period — to really do anything meaningful.”
Many of the resources for people experiencing homelessness in the county are located in Albany, said City Manager Peter Troedsson.
“Homelessness isn’t a problem, it’s a symptom of many different problems,” Troedsson said.
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