Oregon and Washington are among the states experiencing the largest increases in homelessness in the United States, with California not far behind. The issue is particularly prevalent in west coast states, where drug addiction and mental health problems contribute significantly to the growing crisis.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Pacific Northwest saw some of the highest numbers of people unhoused between 2020 and 2022, with nearly 18,000 in Oregon and more than 25,000 in Washington. These states rank second and third in the largest increases in chronic homelessness. In Oregon, the highest percentage of unsheltered individuals live in tents or makeshift shelters.
Despite the increasing numbers of homeless people and the substantial funding being directed towards tackling the problem, little progress is being made. The root causes – mental health issues, addiction, and a lack of affordable housing – are not being adequately addressed. Solutions such as building more housing and providing affordable food and services often fall short, as they fail to address the underlying issues.
Non-profits like Lantern House in Portland work with the unhoused every day, providing food and transitional housing programs, and they are continuously looking to expand their services. However, the situation will not improve until the root causes are effectively tackled.
While some progress has been made, such as Oregon seeing one of the biggest decreases in unaccompanied homeless youth, the overall issue remains daunting. The focus should shift towards finding comprehensive solutions and addressing the addiction and mental health problems plaguing the homeless population, rather than merely providing short-term relief.
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