Homeless Portland

Homelessness is a problem in Portland, Oregon, increasing over time. For years, the city has faced this problem; one more that adds to the damage left by protesters, violence, vandalism, and graffiti; issues that affect the downtown in a significant context.

Homelessness is a problem that has its roots in poverty, mental illness, abuse of substances, lack of education, unemployment, and cost of living. Portland also has a comprehensive program to tackle this phenomenon by providing shelter, food, health assistance, recovery, and education. However, the number of homeless people does not decrease. 

Activists and critics of the local government claim that the bureaucracy and the slow pace of reinserting people into society are not giving the solution everyone expects. On the contrary, Portland’s downtown has become the site for hundreds and hundreds of tents, improvised shacks, and lines of parked RVs. The accumulated trash and debris make the city look like a refuge from the tragedy of third-world countries.

Homelessness Across The US, Overview

In the United States, there are close to 600,000 people experiencing homelessness. Most are individuals (70 percent), and the rest are people who live in families with children. These persons live in temporary shelters, and transitional housing or sleep in places such as abandoned properties, under bridges, parks, or sidewalks. 

Some causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, low wages, tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, domestic violence, divorce, and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, additions, and physical disabilities are also responsible for many homeless people.

Homelessness is a problem affecting Portland and its suburban areas World Population Review reports that in 2022 the ten cities with more homeless are as follows:

  1. California (161,548)
  2. New York (91,271)
  3. Florida (27,487)
  4. Texas (27,229)
  5. Washington (22,923)
  6. Massachusetts (17,975)
  7. Oregon (14,655)
  8. Pennsylvania (13,375)
  9. Arizona (10,979)
  10. Ohio (10,655)

North Dakota, the state with the lowest percentage of the homeless population, is experiencing a population increase as well due to an oil and gas boom. 

Causes Of Homelessness in Portland

According to the Portland Rescue Mission, the causes of homelessness in the city are:

  • Addiction: More than 68% of the cities in the United States report that substance abuse is the number one cause of homelessness. However, this declaration goes more profound, and it is needed to identify the factors that impulse a person to fall into the alcohol and drugs circle. 

The addition might have roots in child abuse, the school system, lack of education, depression, and low income. Health insurance policies are not within reach of everyone and the City, county, and State. The Oregon website has information about mental health programs that might be affordable for some people living in poverty, but communication and more effort from the authorities are needed. A study found that 38.5% of people experiencing homelessness say they have a mental illness, 26% from physical disabilities, and 37.5% from substance abuse disorders. People are hurting with nowhere to turn.

  • Housing affordability: Portland doesn’t have enough houses for every person who needs a place to live, and new people are moving here faster than the city can build houses. Housing is considered “affordable” if it costs no more than 30% of household income. 

From July 31, 2022, to June 30, 2023, the minimum wage in Portland, including parts of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties, is $14,75 per hour, which makes $2,360 before taxes per month. 30% represents $708, which is supposed to cover rent. 

However, the average monthly rent for an apartment in Portland is $1,746. An inadequate housing supply and rising rents leave tens of thousands of Oregon children and families at risk of becoming homeless. The persistence of a smaller population of chronically homeless people requires intensive social services and specialized housing.

It’s a huge problem, with over 5 million children witnessing domestic violence and over 40 million adults living with it daily in the US.

In Multnomah County, statistics show that 1 in 7 adult women experience domestic violence daily. The number could be more significant, but many women do not report incidents or are repeat victims.

  • Economic Situation: Low income, job loss, unemployment, foreclosure. The Portland Mission Rescue informs that at the start of the recession, foreclosure was up by 32% and 10% of that number were homeless. After the pandemic, the city has not returned to its regular operation. The high cost of living makes it almost impossible for some people to cover their daily expenses.

Extreme income inequality and monopolizing wealth production lead to unfortunate circumstances, including poverty and homelessness. One of the most common thoughts is that our economic system cannot provide adequate and affordable housing for individuals.

While Oregon has around 15,000 homeless, the state also has about 141,000 empty houses. 

  • Discrimination: The Historical preferences for the dominant race in the United States and Oregon have mutilated the opportunity of housing for minorities. Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately represented among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Home for Everyone reported that around 40% the Portland’s homeless population is from the black community. The black population in Portland is about 37,000. Considering that Portland’s total homeless population is 6,500, about 2,600 Afroamericans are homeless in the City of roses.

Black Americans nationwide comprise 13% of the general population but represent 26% of the general population living in poverty and, more clearly, represent 40% of the homeless population.

How Portland is Addressing The Homeless Problem

Some alleys and streets of Portland, Oregon, are filled with mountains of trash and used drug needles, reflecting a growing problem of homelessness, drug addiction, and mental illness. The problem is evident along the Springwater Corridor, a popular bike trail on Portland’s east side that sees itself as a peaceful slice of nature tucked away from urban sprawl.

South of the Columbia River, in an industrial section of North Portland, near Delta Park soccer and softball fields, another RV campground lines a side street that juts out from Main Street. Many camp inhabitants have been stationed here for years to protect their territory. The pack leaders keep the numbers low: no more than 20 RVs. They enforce the rules of order, sometimes using physical force, so as not to draw undue attention to the city’s code enforcement.

A map shows the geographic sections of Portland: Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, Northeast and North.

North Portland

The Impact Reduction Team cleaned and removed the following sites:

  • I-5 NB off-ramp at N Victory (1)
  • I-5 NB off-ramp at N Victory (2)
  • N Denver and N Lombard (1)
  • N Denver and N Lombard (2)
  • N Columbia and N Portland loop
  • N Columbia Way at N Columbia Blvd
  • N Argyle, south of N Columbia

Based on health and safety criteria, the following locations have been posted for removal.

Portland’s homeless problem extends beyond downtown, creating a crisis of conscience for this liberal city that has been among the most generous in America in investing in homeless support services for years. Tents and tarps are increasingly filling sidewalks and parks in suburban Portland neighborhoods. And sewage and trash from unauthorized RV campgrounds pollute the Willamette and Columbia river watersheds.

Portland’s homeless crisis extends beyond downtown

Portland is developing more space for shelters and expanding service programs. In February, Mayor Ted Wheeler issued an emergency declaration to address hazardous site encampments in high-collision transportation corridors within the City of Portland.

This emergency order does three things: 

1. Prohibits camping along high-speed corridors.  

2. Prioritizes the work of the Impact Reduction Team to post and remove camps in these areas.  

3. It enables them to keep these sites free of camping with no right of return. 

Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan announced that the first three of six government-sanctioned homeless encampments, called “Safe Rest Villas” sites, will be up and in operation by the end of 2022. It has been successful in cities like Houston. The City of Roses has about 1,500 shelter beds, which is insufficient to meet the need. It lacks easy access to subsidized permanent housing, supported by case managers, health care, job placement, and addiction treatment.

The land for the construction of the villages was granted by the city’s Office of Environmental Services, the office of transportation, and TriMet; this public company operates public transportation in an area that encompasses most of the Portland metropolitan area.

The Office Of Homeless Services

Multnomah County launched a program with the City of Portland to provide shelter, healthcare, and employment assistance to people experiencing homelessness. The programs also want to work with local landlords with the intention of making housing units available to persons who want to end homelessness.

For 2023, the Join Office of Homeless Service Budget has proposed a $225 million initiative to tackle the problems of transitory and permanent shelter, behavioral health, and, most importantly, to open the door to full recovery.

The program includes expanding the shelter to the maximum capacity of 2,418 beds. The Supportive Housing Services Measure contributes almost $26 million to shelter capital and operations. A new $5.6 million investment will help house more people in motel shelters.

The housing program has moved over 2700 people from homelessness to permanent housing. Additional facilities will open in 2022 to provide more mental health services emphasizing cultural needs. The service includes assistance and health care for people who identify themselves as LGBTQIA2S.

The budget will help to reach out to people where they are.

  • 20 new Navigation Team outreach workers
  • 4 new culturally specific workers for the Coordinated Housing Assessment Team are the main entry to the Joint Office’s Coordinated Access by-name list of adult households who’ve applied for housing. 
  • 3 new mental health street outreach workers
  • And a new program manager at the Joint Office to lead work around Safety on the Streets programming and serve as a street outreach coordinator.
Funding sources:
  • Total Joint Office budget: $255.5 million
  • Supportive Housing Services: $107.1 million
  • County General Fund:  $59.8 million
  • City of Portland: $45.4 million
  • Total American Rescue Plan: $27 million
  • Other federal/state/local funds: $13.3 million
Program categories
  • Behavioral health: $25 million
  • Shelter: $130 million 
  • Housing: $106 million
  • Outreach: $12 million

Although the city and the county’s efforts to address the homeless problem, there are areas where the community is not satisfied and demands major actions. Others consider that the homeless issue is out of control, and they prefer to move out of their neighborhood, claiming that t among others, the property value will decrease significantly because of the homeless presence.

Homeless Population is Driving Residents Out of North Portland

North Portland families are selling their homes due to increased homelessness, garbage, and crime taking over the streets. Long-time residents say homeless camps near their homes along the peninsula crossing trail have changed the area.

Residents also declared that this is the first time they are seriously considering moving. Some homeowners share their backyard with the camp. Every day they have to see episodes of mental disturbance, drug, and alcohol consumption, fights, human feces, and liquid odors. They don’t feel safe walking along or in their gardens.

“For Sale” signs are in the front yard of several houses in North Portland. Many don’t feel safe leaving their car parked overnight in their house driveway without maybe having it broken into.

Homelessness is a growing issue affecting not only North Portland but several neighborhoods that never had the problem before. Other communities are experiencing the same situation with tents or RVs parked in front of schools and parks where children play.

For the last three years, North Portland has seen this problem; although authorities say they will take care of the issue and have plans to build a safe rest village along that trail where the campers can go, that plan doesn’t have a timeline yet.

Recently, authorities were cleaning several areas around the city. The Lauren Hurst park was also included in the cleaning program, where more than 25 people were camping. 

After they left, the city came to clean up all the trash left behind. Portland has a big problem that needs to solve soon. Some people have no place to live because some have disabilities or can’t afford rent.

Meanwhile, homeowners are getting desperate and doing whatever it takes to sell their properties and move to cleaner areas.

After more than one year since protests and violence, Portland is not over yet. Now Portlanders face the growing homelessness issue, graffiti, and vandalism. Hundreds of homeowners will flee if the city and the county don’t create the resources to contain the escalation of this problem. 

The temporary or permanent shelter is not enough. If the root of homelessness is not tackled as additions, mental health, and eliminating the bureaucracy that is more significant to the problem, Portland will be submerged under garbage.

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Long-time businesses operating in downtown Portland closed their doors forever after being victims of vandalism. They claim downtown is not coming back fast enough and blame the county commission and the city government for talking a lot but without action. 

Some business owners are committed to staying downtown but frustrated by continued graffiti and vandalism. In the end, to recover Portland and its splendor. It is needed the effort of everyone. Authorities and the community must work shoulder by shoulder to resolve the issues. 

The strength of a city is known by its achievements and not by its failures.

Scott

Hi, I'm Scott Dalinger a real estate investor in Portland, Oregon. I focus on helping homeowners and rental property owners out of negative situations by offering cash for their property. I research and write about real estate on my business website.

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