Several years ago, when my wife and I moved to Astoria, we knew winters could be a challenge. To force ourselves to get out of the house, we intentionally did not get internet, and instead opted for a daily outing to the library in order to “get connected.”

Guess who else hangs out at the library? The unsheltered, of course. Thus began my journey of understanding. The folks I met did not match the stereotypes I had imagined. I began to hear stories of struggles, frustrations, failures, successes and joys.

I heard from folks who graduated from Astoria High School; folks who worked in the fishing industry, and were injured; folks waiting for disability; and of folks working, but not able to afford a place to live. I made new friends.

And, I began to do a little research. I was surprised to discover Oregon is among the top states in the rate of homelessness in the nation. This is based on data from the Point-in-Time count required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That’s not a top group to be proud of. And Clatsop County has among the highest rates of homelessness in Oregon. Interestingly, Mississippi has among the lowest rates of homelessness, along with much more affordable housing. Housing solves homelessness.