EUGENE, Ore. — Fewer people are living on Lane County’s streets, but demand for homeless services is still great. Organizers of February’s one-night homeless count revealed their tally Tuesday.
The homeless population decreased by about 400 people from 2011 to 2012, but shelters say they’re still slammed with requests.
“The economy is definitely affecting people. We’re seeing more and more people that are working two or three jobs to try to make ends meet. Every month can be a challenge,” said Susanne Fendler, ShelterCare manager.
Family housing through ShelterCare receives around 200 requests each month, but can only help about 30 of those families. The families who can’t get help turn to the streets, resulting in more than 2,200 homeless students in Lane County schools.
“We work with a homeless liaison at the Bethel School District here and she once said the school teachers could see when the families would move into shelter because the kids would finally settle down,” said Susan Ban, ShelterCare director.
“I’ve tried shelters, but I found they smell like feet. And they don’t even help me, they actually just get me wrapped up in a whirlpool of negativity that I have to avoid,” said William Sanders, a homeless man.
Sanders says he isn’t surprised by the number of people on the streets; but speaking from his own experience, he thinks there’s not enough being done for him and others who need homes.
“It shouldn’t be these people’s problem that they’re homeless. Like they act like we don’t try to find help and stuff. There’s just no one to help us,” Sanders said.
Lane County leaders say otherwise; arguing they’re providing options for the homeless community, but it’s difficult to keep up with the numbers.
“Unless we get a deeper investment from the community on fighting homelessness on a local level and state level and national level, it’s hard to keep up with needing to reduce homelessness and end it,” said Pearl Wolfe, Lane County Spokeswoman.
Lane County leaders say there may be a misconception about the number of homeless in the county.