MEDFORD, Ore. — In spite of continued job growth and decreased unemployment, homelessness continues to rise in Jackson County, according to a new report provided by ACCESS. The report not only examines the overall number of homeless individuals in the County, but examines the causes and barriers to finding homes.
Jackson County saw a 15.6 percent increase in the total number of homeless people between 2017 and 2018—with the most recent count at 732, an increase of 99 people since 2017. The 2018 number is also the highest that count has been in seven years, according to ACCESS.
The root causes for homelessness in Jackson County (according to ACCESS):
- Loss of job
- Poor rental history and history of evictions
- Family trauma/crisis – divorce, family disputes
- Domestic violence/sexual abuse/stalking
- Loss of housing upon death of a relative
- Mental illness
- Job injury
- Physical disability
- Health crisis
- Substance use disorder
- Low wages
- Rent increases exceed ability to pay
- Very low vacancy rate
- Unexpected bills
- Education – cannot pay rent and tuition
Over a 10-year period, the highest number of homeless people counted was 1,049 in 2011. The lowest was 527, just two years ago in 2016.
Jackson County Continuum of Care (JCCC) conducts the survey, which they refer to as a "point in time" report. This year, teams of volunteers spread out through the county on Monday, January 22—surveying and counting those individuals living on the street, in camps, or in cars.
“The count attempts to capture people who are sheltered or unsheltered to provide a snapshot of homelessness in the United States,” said Continuum of Care Homeless Prevention Coordinator Constance Wilkerson.
'Chronic homelessness' is also a growing issue, according to ACCESS—meaning that homeless people are spending more time homeless than previous years. This year's survey found that one of every three homeless residents were considered chronically homeless, compared to one in every four last year—an increase of 32 percent.
According to ACCESS, most of the chronically homeless suffer from either mental illness, physical disability, developmental disability, substance abuse disorder or some combination.
ACCESS reports that homeless veterans and young parents saw a marked increase this year over 2017.
The report also revealed that many of the homeless are able to bring in an income. However, that income was not enough to fund housing, as prices in the County skyrocket and availability shrinks.
The JCCC, which conducted the survey, consists of volunteers from ACCESS and other homeless assistance agencies, plus employees from both county and city governments, and other willing volunteers.