Portland’s Homelessness Crisis: Urgently Demanding Action, Not Emergency Calls

The city of Portland, Oregon, is facing a growing humanitarian crisis. The homeless population in the city has increased by almost 50% since 2019, surpassing 5,000 individuals.

This alarming surge has been accompanied by a disturbing rise in public drug abuse and illegal encampments, despite the city’s efforts to establish sanctioned homeless parks.

In July, Portland introduced its first official homeless “park,” but it did little to address the situation. Instead, disheveled tents lining the streets and individuals openly abusing hard drugs have become common sights.

According to official data, approximately 3,000 of the city’s homeless population are without shelter.

The crisis has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a 2018 court ruling that prevents cities in much of the West, including Portland, from stopping people from sleeping outside if no alternative shelter is available.

Furthermore, a 2020 ballot measure approved by Oregon voters has effectively decriminalized the possession of hard drugs like meth and opioids, leading to widespread public drug abuse.

In response to the dire situation, Portland’s local government has allocated $27 million in funding for three temporary alternative sites, with plans for three more sites funded by Multnomah County.

However, these measures have had little impact on the homelessness and drug abuse crisis plaguing the city’s streets.

Adding to the city’s problems, Portland’s public safety commissioner, Rene Gonzalez, recently urged residents not to call 911 unless they are in immediate danger of death.

This plea came as the city’s emergency service hotline was overwhelmed with calls related to fentanyl overdoses. Paramedics were called to deal with eight suspected fentanyl overdoses in the city’s Pearl District in one instance.

Despite the substantial funding allocated to relief initiatives, there has been little improvement on the streets of Portland. The city has experienced a surge in deaths from fentanyl overdoses since the decriminalization of hard drugs in 2020.

In addition, there were a total of 104 homicides in the city between August 2022 and August 2023, with the majority occurring in downtown Portland.

Portland residents are understandably frustrated. A poll conducted by People for Portland, a conservative advocacy group, revealed that over two-thirds of voters wanted to clear the streets by mandating drug addicts into rehabilitation. Three-quarters of the voters described the city’s homelessness situation as an “out-of-control disaster.”

What do you think?

Written by Western Reader

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