FAQ – Homelessness

How many people are homeless in the United States? In Lane County?

  • According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP), approximately 3 million men, women, and children are homeless each year in the U.S.
  • According to the most recent Lane County shelter count, approximately 2,140 men, women and children were homeless on January 26, 2011.

Who is homeless?

  • About 60% of the families in shelter are single head-of-household families.
  • Just over 40% of those served in family shelters are children younger than age six.
  • Some of the households in shelter have a physical or mental disability.

Why do people become homeless?

  • Lack of affordable housing: Today, fewer than 30% of those eligible for low-income housing receive it. A family's length of shelter stay in Eugene/Springfield has increased from less than one week in the 1980s to two months today due to lack of affordable housing. Affordable housing means that a family is paying no more than 30% of their income for housing.
  • Lagging Incomes: Incomes for the poorest Americans have not kept pace with rising housing and medical costs. A missed paycheck, a health crisis, or an unpaid bill can push individuals and families over the edge into homelessness. Many people become homeless despite having a full-time job. Forty-percent of the families who enter ShelterCare’s shelters are employed.
  • Domestic Violence: A woman and her children leaving an abusive relationship may have no resources independent from the batterer. With small children and minimal job experience, many women find it difficult to support an independent and safe life in the community.
  • In Eugene, the most common causes of homelessness are mental illness, domestic violence, unemployment and substance abuse.

How many homeless individuals are chronically homeless?

  • The majority of those who become homeless are homeless only once. Noted researcher Dr. Dennis Culhane of the University of Pennsylvania found that nationally, on average:
    • 80% of those who are homeless are homeless only once
    • 10% are homeless more than once
    • 10% are chronically homeless (meaning they are homeless four or more times in three years or continually homeless for one year).
  • In Lane County, too many of those who are homeless are chronically homeless.

What are some of the barriers to ending homelessness?

  • Funding for agencies addressing homelessness has been hovering around a billion dollars for over a decade, despite a dramatic increase in homelessness during that time. About 75% of emergency shelters rely in part or whole on government funding, and cuts at the federal level hurt the ability of local agencies to meet increasing need.
  • The number of "working poor" families needing shelter services has increased: a full one-quarter of the families in emergency shelter earn too much to qualify for public assistance. At the same time, revenue for emergency shelter for families from public sources has decreased every year since 1991. As a result, the number of "slots" for families has decreased as have the resources and services available to families.
  • In 2011 in Lane County reductions in government funding have reduced the number of shelter units availble for families with children.

What are the impacts of homelessness on children?

  • Homelessness places individuals, particularly children, under extreme stress. Homeless children manifest the same symptoms as children who are abused and neglected, and exhibit more physical illness, mental disorders, major developmental delays, and poorer cognitive development than other children.

How does ShelterCare help families and individuals who are homeless?

  • ShelterCare provides housing, services and support to families with children and individuals with a severe mental illness who find themselves without a home.
  • ShelterCare helps families with children to remain in stable housing and avoid becoming homeless with are Homelessness Prevention Program.
  • We also help families by using transitional housing units to ensure they have the best chance to fully rejoin our community. 

What happens to families and individuals when they leave ShelterCare?

  • Seventy-one percent of homeless families who complete their stay in our Family Housing Program and Brethren Housing Program move onto stable housing.
  • Some families leave shelter for transitional housing programs in the community. These programs continue to support the family as they complete educational programs and develop skills necessary to be self-sufficient in the community.
  • Seventy-two percent of chronically homeless individuals with a severe mental illness served by ShelterCare’s Royal Avenue and Shankle Safe Haven programs move onto stable housing.

How does a family get help with homelessness?

  • First Place Family Center, 342-7728, handles all referrals.
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ShelterCare Administrative Offices • 499 W. 4th Avenue • Eugene, OR 97401 • Phone: 541.686.1262 • Fax: 541.686.0359 • www.sheltercare.org