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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a twofold problem.

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Oregon Tops National Homelessness Tally

July 15, 2009

SALEM, Ore. - The number of homeless people in Oregon has climbed for the third straight year. A new national report compiled for Congress by the Department of Housing and Urban Development says about one-half of one percent of Oregonians are homeless. That may not sound like much, but it's a higher percentage than in any other state, compared to its total population, and it means 17,000 people statewide are living in shelters or on the street.

Elisa Aguilera, co-director of the Community Alliance of Tenants, says families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, making up one-third of the total.

"These are hard-working families that have one, two, three jobs – and they just can't make ends meet. There isn't enough money to keep providing short-term rent assistance for people to keep waiting until they can get into housing that's more affordable."

Aguilera says rents have been increasing faster than wages, and for low-income housing, there's a waiting list of from six months to two years. The larger the apartment needed, she says, the longer the wait.

"We're seeing a lot more families who are doubling up in a small apartment with other families, because they can't find anything that's affordable within a reasonable driving distance to their work, or that doesn't mean changing school districts for their kids."

In the past three years, Oregon has gone from fifth in the nation to first in the growth of its homeless population. Aguilera's group estimates the state is 90,000 units short of the amount of affordable housing needed to meet the demand. This year, the legislature voted to allow county document fees to be raised, with the money to be used for affordable housing programs, but the new law doesn't take effect until October 1.

The AHAR report on homelessness is compiled for Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. See it at www.hudre.info

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR