Medford, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it.
Statistics have recently been released by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department, that show a decrease in Jackson County’s homeless population. But local agencies believe there’s more to the story, especially when you look at different age groups.
“The point in time count that came out in Jackson County shows, around our youth, is approximately twenty-nine,” Access Supportive Services Director David Mulig said. “Twenty-nine youth are currently homeless in Jackson County.”
The report found twenty-nine kids facing homelessness with their parents, and another sixty-two who were alone. To Mulig, the data seems too good to be true.
“Even though it looks good from a point in time HUD perspective, if we really look at what’s happening, and I really only can speak about Jackson County in general, there’s a lot of hidden information that I think is important that we get out to the public,” Mulig said.
For example, a report generated by the Department of Education for the McKinny-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
“According to the 2015-2016 school year, in Jackson County, the Department of Education has identified 2,451 youth that are homeless,” Mulig said.
According to Mulig, the reason the numbers vary could come down to a definition.
“HUD defines homeless, and in particular chronic homelessness as an individual or family who’s living in a place that’s not considered habitable, or they’re living in an emergency shelter or safe haven,” Mulig said. “And they’ve been homeless continuously for at least 12 months or have had four occasions in the last year of being homeless for up to 12 months.”
On the national level, the Department of Housing an Urban Development doles out funding to states based on their homeless count. That requires people in each state, and in turn, each county, to hit the streets.
“Each county goes out and counts the homeless population in their area,” Mulig said.
“So if I am homeless, and I’m living on the street and you don’t happen to find me while you’re doing this count in this limited amount of time, does that mean that I don’t count?” Natalie Weber asked.
“You don’t,” Mulig answered.
Mulig noted on the local level, the new data released may not show the whole picture. On a national level, the numbers shouldn’t be ignored.
“Both are true, both are accurate, both have purpose. HUD needs to have a way that’s replicable, that every community can use, so that then when they introduce the data, it means the same across the country. Therefore they have a definition and they are very specific,” Mulig said. “From a local perspective, and the work we’re doing in our community at agencies like Access and Maslow, we want to broaden our view of what homelessness is, and how we can help in a way that HUD is not defining.”