'This is a huge crisis, not just in our community but around the nation'
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - The issue of homelessness was at the heart of a Springfield City Club meeting Thursday.
Organizers posed the question: has homelessness changed over the last year?
Lise Stuart, a data analyst for Lane County Human Services, said homelessness has remained fairly flat in the last few years.
The 2017 Annual Homeless Point in Time Count found that 1,529 people are homeless in Lane County. The number went up 5 percent from 2016's count. Volunteers conducted the 2018 count on January 31 and expect to release those results in the coming months.
According to data from Lane County Human Services, in Springfield, there were 5,293 people who identified as being homeless over the course of 2017. Stuart said, although that number has remained fairly steady over the last few years, there was an increase in the number of homeless seniors and children. Last year, 525 Springfield children were considered homeless.
Homeless advocates said there has also been an increase in awareness.
"I've seen a lot of interest," said Dan Bryant, Pastor of First Christian Church. "People recognize that this is a huge crisis, not just in our community but around the nation."
Bryant said, this year, the number of Point In Time volunteers doubled. He also said, over the last year, there has been an increase in services that are available to those in need.
For example, St. Vincent DePaul expanded their Dusk 'till Dawn program. Bryant launched Emerald Village that provides 22 tiny homes to low-income tenants. Bryant said he is also working on a new proposal: a 50-person housing facility to be built on MLK Jr. Boulevard in Eugene.
Last winter, Carrie Miller, a well-known homeless woman, died on the streets of Eugene. After "Mama Carrie's" memorial service, Bryant called her death a "wake-up" call for better housing in Lane County.
"I have just seen greater and greater numbers of people in very difficult situations trying to figure out where they're going to go next," Bryant said.
Bryant will present at part two of the City Club's series on homelessness on March 1.
Springfield City Club Meeting
11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Hilton Garden Inn
3528 Gateway Street, Springfield, OR
Members: $13 for lunch at the door
$0 for just program
Non-members: $18 for lunch and programs / $ 5 for just program (Payable at the door.)