Homelessland

Portland homeless advocacy group Street Roots says 113 homeless have died in Portland this year.

At least 113 people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County died last year — the most since county officials started tracking in 2012.

That year, the county and the homeless advocacy group Street Roots released the first “Domicile Unknown” report, an accounting of all the people who died living within the county without a home address. Since then, homeless deaths have more than doubled, from 47 in 2011 to the 113 counted in 2019.

The report, released Monday, did not delve into the factors that fueled a steady rise in deaths over the decade. But in a press conference announcing the results, Multnomah County Health Officer Paul Lewis and county Chair Deborah Kafoury said the jump might be attributed, in part, to steadily rising rents and the accompanying increase in homelessness.

“If there’s more folks who are homeless and houseless, we’re going to have more deaths in that group,” Lewis said. “It’s not like there’s a new special plague.”

There isn’t? That’s a relief. Someone tell our state legislators, who held a private session yesterday over some new, special virus. Also the people rioting outside over the penurious restrictions supposedly necessitated by it. The OPB article, somehow, makes no mention of Covid or whether the deceased are tested.

Homeless advocates, led by Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, characterize the homeless problem as primarily a shortage in housing, as they push high-density progressive policy that includes neighborhood integration along the lines of Barack Obama’s soon-to-be resurrected Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing program. Eager developers and other business interests in this way fund the transformation of once nice, white cities. The grift and ruin follows the money, when a place like Portland becomes desirable.

Of course our desirability is fading faster than a coked-up starlet’s, and a cratering real estate market might render all bets off. Downtown is a depressing place psychically and economically; its venerable old Benson hotel closed its doors, probably forever, recently, citing bookings in the ten percent range. Who knows, maybe they’ll use it to house the homeless.

The majority of those on the streets are chronic drug users who cannot work or keep a home. The only question seems to be whether the accompanying high rate of mental illness is more cause than correlation, and I think it is.

According to the report, alcohol or drugs — most commonly methamphetamine or opioids — caused or contributed to about half of the deaths of unhoused people. A third died of natural causes, often complications from drug and alcohol abuse or chronic diseases. Six were homicides and 15 were suicides — up from nine suicides the year before. Ten died in “traumatic accidents,” such as a fire or a car crash. And most of those deaths could have been prevented, said Kafoury.

The curious phrase “experiencing homelessness” is part of the narrative ploy, the “there but for the grace of God” fallacy excising the moral element. One experiences homelessness (“houseless” is actually the preferred nomenclature, now, Dude–you see, they have a “home”, they are in fact our neighbors) the way once experiences weather. For some reason I think of people “experiencing weightlessness”, and picture a bunch of bums floating in air in a cargo plane. The fact is many choose to live on the streets because there they can use–drugs are cheap and plentiful, and thanks to progressive legislation, now legal–and make their own rules. Any program offering them housing–as far as I know, though progressives may fix this–comes with drug rehabilitation and program of socialization involving rules. Failure rates are high for the few who seek help and make it through the process; for those who don’t want anything to do with a structured life? Good luck with that, as they say.

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