Homelessness is everywhere. But since we are not, nor can we be, we need to focus on the areas we can: our region, our state, and our own backyard. Change does come from each and every one of us. Looking at statistics, that change isn't really happening.

According to Security.org, over half a million people are homeless, and 1 in 5 are children. Improvements have been made, with a worldwide drop of 15% over the past decade. How are we doing in the Pacific Northwest? Not as good as we should be.

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Recent reports show that out of the 10 highest states in homelessness, Washington, California, and Oregon make the list. California is #1, Washington is #5, and Oregon is #7. For comparison, New York (2), Florida (3), and Texas (4) round out the top 5. North Dakota, Wyoming, Delaware, Rhode Island, and South Dakota are the 5 states with the lowest numbers of homeless.

Has The Pacific Northwest Improved Or Worsened With Homelessness?

Simply put, it has gotten worse. Since 2018, homelessness has increased by 11.90% in California, 14.10% in Oregon, and 15.30% in Washington. Now, these are state averages, and you really shouldn't judge an entire state by certain cities. Security.org breaks it down even more.

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Which Cities Have The Highest Homeless Rates in the PNW?

I was a little surprised by this, mainly because of the population - but Portland does not have the highest homeless rate. That unfortunate title belongs to Eugene, Oregon. Eugene has the country's highest homeless rate among major cities per 100,000. Los Angeles, California, is #2, followed by New York, San Jose/Santa Clara, CA, and Seattle-Tacoma, Washington, at 5th highest in the country. Seattle also had a 23% increase since 2018.

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Which Cities Have The Biggest Homelessness Problems?

Security.org has compiled stats from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with help from state and local agencies, to create a "Point In Time" count. Zooming in on the PNW, Eugene, OR, takes the top spot out of our area and the country (as previously mentioned). Washington state has two cities where homelessness ranks high, with Seattle/Tacoma coming in at #5 and Spokane at #17. California has nine cities out of the top 30 with homeless problems, including LA (2), San Jose/Santa Clara (4), San Francisco/Oakland (8), San Diego (10), Vallejo (12), and Napa (15).

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What Can Be Done?

It's hard to say; it's such a complex issue. Between the economy, mental health, drug use/addiction, and the fact that some people are just happier living that way, some aid can quickly fail or not even be welcomed. If you can help or are in need of it, you can reach out to your local shelters and authorities for options in your community.

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Gallery Credit: Meagan Drillinger

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