Considering the rapid rise of homelessness in Multnomah County and Oregon over the last few years, having a rapid increase in homeless deaths may not seem surprising, but it should be alarming.
In a Willamette Week article written on Feb. 15 by Sophie Peel, we learn Multnomah County has been recording homeless deaths since 2011 when there was a total of 47. The number has been growing ever since until the last compiled figure in 2021 totaled 193 homeless deaths.
The total homeless count in the county totaled 5,228 people in 2022 according to a KOIN6 article. To get some perspective, the total amount of homeless deaths in all of Oregon for the first 6 months of 2022 was 207, according to a KGW8 article – 35% of which happened in Multnomah County, which would equal around 73 people.
If we do the math, the projected year total for 2022 would be 146, which would be a decrease from 2021. The KGW8 article explains a new law took effect at the beginning of 2022 requiring the state to keep track of homeless deaths, so the accuracy may not be as refined as the decade-long count Multnomah County had produced.
According to the Willamette Week article concerning the cause of the deaths, 18 homeless people were killed, 8 died by suicide, 93 were partly caused by meth, 36 were partly caused by fentanyl, 8 died of hypothermia from the cold, and 4 from hyperthermia from extreme heat. That accounts for 167 homeless deaths in 2021 and the average age was 47.
The difficulties caused by the pandemic measures have taken their toll on Oregonians, including on the homeless shown by the increase in homeless deaths in Multnomah County and elsewhere. Hopefully, the solutions Gov. Kotek is working on and the end of the pandemic measures will help reduce these tragic deaths.
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