Homelessness: A Growing Issue


Homeless camp tents line a street sidewalk in Northeast Portland in March 2020. Photo by Graywalls from Wikimedia Commons and used under the Creative Commons License.

Danika Travis and Alice Springstead

In the past, homeless camps were found in more out of the way locations like under bridges. Homelessness has always been in Douglas County, but with our growing population more people are without homes, and it’s becoming more visible.

This is not a new problem but it has now become more prevalent. So much so that it’s being declared a statewide problem.

Being homeless is not illegal, however having camps set up on public property is a code violation that officers have to enforce. ‘’This is why you’ll usually find camps in the overgrowth area outside the city limits and along the riverbanks,” Code Officer Dana Parker said.

In Douglas County, the homeless population is around 1,000 people. The Winston homeless population may vary from time to time, but many stay near family since they will occasionally get help from them.

It doesn’t take much to lose your house, a small accident is all it could take.
Losing your job suddenly can cause you to also lose your home,” Officer Parker said.

One of the main contributing factors to this growing population is the pandemic, mental health and addiction.

Covid-19 has affected families and loved ones. The lock down closed most buildings and left many jobless and without a source of income.

“Addiction is one of the major, if not the most, common reasons for homelessness,” Officer Parker said.

Currently, resources are a problem. “We don’t have enough funding to put out mental health, and addiction resources to help people who need it,” continued Officer Parker. However, we have Adapt that does help people with some necessities.

Adapt is a county-wide program that has advocates who help people in need with healthcare and other necessities. They bring out a trailer to Winston once or twice a week that lets people shower and wash their clothes.

Speaking of hygiene, there are hygiene bags at the Winston Community Baptist Church that individuals can pick up. These bags contain basic necessities to stay clean and healthy.

Another resource available in our community, seasonally, are warming shelters. As the weather gets colder, the churches in Roseburg and Winston will sometimes open as warming shelters for people, providing resources and a place to stay for the night.

One problem is informing people of the services available to them. Warming shelters often post on Facebook when they will be open, but not all people who need a shelter have a way to get these notifications.

Douglas County is working hard to get more resources for the homeless. The Gary Leif Navigation Center in Roseburg opened in June of 2022 and their staff works diligently to provide support to their residents. It is an outreach housing hub with 17 pods with construction going on now to house another 17 beds.

In Winston, some help can be found through the school system. Kim Kellison, the Superintendent of Winston-Dillard school district recently announced that the district will “receive an additional $4225 under the American Rescue Plan Homeless Children and Youth (ARP-HCY) Fund ODE State Set-Aside Program.”

“This funding can be used to expand activities and initiatives in our community to identify and serve youth experiencing houselessness,“ Kellison said. Families in need of assistance are encouraged to reach out to the district.

At the state level, Oregon’s new governor, Tina Kotek, is taking initiative to help reduce the issue of people without homes. On her first full day in office, she signed three executive orders and declared homelessness a state of emergency.

With Kotek’s new orders, there will hopefully be plans and resources to build more affordable housing and offer more resources to help people get back on their feet.

“Anyone is just one tragic event away from being homeless,” Officer Parker said. Because of this, it’s important for communities to work together to get resources in place to help lessen homelessness.