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Housing makes a difference in homeless arrest rate: How we analyzed the data


An analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive found that homeless people who have even temporary housing are less likely to be booked into jail in Multnomah County than people living on the street. Here is how we crunched four years of data to report this story:

The Oregonian/OregonLive analyzed Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office data for more than 125,000 jail bookings involving about 45,000 people from 2016 through 2019. Address fields sometimes contained a full street address and sometimes simply a note like “transient” or “Bud Clark Clinic,” a reference to a place where people without homes can pick up mail. Our analysis categorized addresses for people booked into jail as “sheltered homeless,” “unsheltered homeless” or “not homeless.”

For the first three years of this analysis, roughly 20% of people had no address information, and in 2019 that number dropped to 13%. However, any analysis describing the proportion of bookings or people booked includes those people in the analysis, so that any report of the percentage of homeless people is the more conservative estimate. For instance, if The Oregonian/OregonLive only used people with address information, the percentage of homeless people booked into jail rises to 90%, rather than the 87% used in the story.

All addresses categorized as “sheltered homeless” matched the address or name of a shelter or transitional housing designed to help formerly homeless people and sometimes other vulnerable populations as well. These include Portland Rescue Mission, Bud Clark Commons Apartments and numerous apartment complexes operated by nonprofit Central City Concern.

The analysis categorized addresses as “unsheltered homeless” if they were noted as “transient” or “homeless” or if they corresponded to a service that does not provide shelter, such as Sisters of the Road Cafe or Bud Clark Clinic.

Addresses that matched regular apartments, houses, motels, low-income housing complexes and the like were categorized “not homeless.”

For a given year, people’s housing status was categorized as “sheltered homeless” if their address corresponded to a shelter or transitional housing at any point, because that indicated the person was living somewhere that is connected to social services at some point during that year.

— Melissa Lewis, Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting

— Molly Harbarger | 503-294-5923 | @MollyHarbarger


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