UCC Mainstream Online

Resources for local housing challenges

Israel Bayer,streetroots.org
Homelessness is a problem persistent throughout not only Douglas County, but Oregon as a whole. Portland and the surrounding Multnomah County rank first in homeless rates in Oregon. The region features many homeless communities of people dwelling in tents or on the streets. Portland and Oregon as a whole have actively searched for solutions to get people into normal living conditions.

Homelessness is frequently listed among the biggest concerns for the state of Oregon. Oregon’s problems persist with all forms of homelessness, from veterans to chronic homelessness. Although this statistic has gotten slightly better over the years, Oregon’s continued low ranks remain a blemish on the state as a whole.

Roseburg serves as a base for many homeless, this being an area where 17% of Douglas County’s poverty percentage comes from. The recent recession and the crumbled housing market marked an influx of new homeless in 2009. 16% of homeless people are listed as chronically homeless, meaning they have been without a home for over a year. About 1 in 50 homeless are children; and rates for teenagers and college students has risen in the past years.

Oregon, currently ranked as the second worst state for homelessness nationwide, has consistently posted some of the highest numbers of homeless people in the nation. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the state housed nearly 16,000 homeless people in 2012. The Portland Business Journal reported that number declined to nearly 13,000 in 2013. Still, to every 10,000 people, Oregon has 35.2 people, compared to the national average of 19 homeless to every 10,000 sheltered.

According to Endhomelessness.org, there were a total of 578,424 people registered as homeless in the United States in January of 2015, a number skewed by the thousands who do not register. Of these, fifteen percent are registered as chronically homeless, meaning they have been without a home for over a year.

In Roseburg, the United Community Action Network (UCAN) seeks to help those impoverished or affected by homelessness. Tara Kness, a housing case manager for UCAN, helps Roseburg’s homeless daily.

Most of them live under bridges, by rivers. Right on Jackson Street, on the bridge, by the Presbyterian Church. Usually where there’s a river there are homeless, because that’s a place for water and for bathing,” Kness said.

Kness has helped numerous homeless find housing or jobs, all in the hopes that their lives can become normal in a centralized home environment. “I recently housed a couple that had been homeless for 14 years,” Kness said. “[They were] hard to house because of felonies [they got] for trespassing due to them being homeless. No income, too. [Now] they are being case managed to be self-sufficient and are applying for SSI.”

Kness smiled thinking of the couple and how she helped them find life under a roof. “What touched me the most with the couple was their goals in life. How they learned to live inside. The excitement the female feels putting on pajamas or taking a bath. They humble me with their simplicity and how I could touch their lives. They’re special to me.”

Currently, UCAN teams with local organizations such as the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Community Health Alliance, the Dream Center , Parole and Probation , the Food Bank, and others to help end the homeless problem. The goals of these organizations range from giving housing or jobs to providing supplies such as sleeping bags and bathing supplies. If you would like to help these local programs, you can contact UCAN at (541) 672-3421 to receive an application to become a volunteer.

Editor’s Note: The author of this story is related to one of the interviewed parties.