Survey: Fewer homeless veterans in Oregon, no change in Portland

Kevin Blodgett was homeless in Portland for eight years until he got help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite a pledge to end homelessness among veterans in Multnomah County, an Oregon Housing and Community Services point-in-time survey shows the number of homeless veterans hasn’t improved.

The state conducted a survey of homeless individuals across the state to identify the number of homeless on one given night.

According to the report, the number of homeless veterans in the state dropped by nine percent from 2015. It found there are 121 fewer homeless across the state.

In Multnomah County, the numbers have stayed the same. In 2015, 417 homeless were counted. Earlier this year, 445 homeless were counted.

In 2015, the city of Portland and Multnomah County pledged to end homelessness.

Denis Theriault, a spokesperson for the Joint Office of Homeless Services for Portland and Multnomah County, told KATU News over a thousand veterans have found housing in the last two years.

"We were able to open up a veterans shelter. We had folks who could get people into housing. We had housing ready for (veterans)," Theriault said.

Despite improvements, Theriault said rising housing costs, plus stagnant wages, have made it difficult for veterans to stay off the streets, regardless if there are more resources than ever.

"The housing market in Portland and Multnomah County is punishing people," he said.

Army Veteran Kevin Blodgett was homeless in Portland for eight years.

"It was normal," he said.

While living under a bridge near Farragut Park, Blodgett said he got help from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said they helped to connect him to resources, which helped him to apply for a Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher, a program that helps veterans pay rent.

Now, Blodgett has been living in his North Portland apartment for three years.

"I am so lucky," he said.

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