Homeless census: 'There are more people than we counted'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Lane County Human Services Commission counted 1,751 people without a habitable place to live on a single night this past January, but offiials said the number doesn't come close to reality.

"Yes, there more people than we counted, absolutely," said Pearl Wolfe. "Are there more people than were counted for presenting services? You bet. I'm sure there are."

The 2013 One Night Homeless Count report was released Tuesday morning.

"We're hoping that by doing this it's an opportunity to educate our community about the level of homelessness and what it looks like," said Wolfe, the Lane County Human Services Commission supervisor.

Wolfe said a team of county employees and volunteers went out on January 30, 2013, and counted homeless community members who were "on the streets, under bridges, in parks, at food pantries, day access centers, churches, emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other locations."

The commission is required by the state to conduct a one-night count of the homeless population every two years, but officials collect data every time a homeless individual seeks social services in Lane County.

"This isn't it," said Wolfe. "This isn't the only measure of homelessness. I mean this is one night."
In the report released on Tuesday, officials said they counted 10,857 individuals who were homeless and sought social services through Lane County Human Services Commission funded programs in 2012.

But Wolfe said the actual number of people living in and out of homelessness in Lane County is much higher than the data suggests, particularly during spring and summer months.

"You see a lot more unfamiliar people in and around the service center here when it gets warmer," said Jason Bamburg, a 38-year-old California native living on the streets of Eugene for the past 7 years.

"We have a tight knit family out here, and we've been seeing a lot of new faces," said Bamburg with his pit bull Egan outside the St. Vincent De Paul service center in West Eugene on Tuesday.

Of the 1,751 counted on January 30, 2013, Wolfe said more than half were living without any shelter. She said the rest were living in transition housing or staying in emergency shelters.