PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A new report shows more people lacking permanent housing in Multnomah County died in 2019 than in any previous year studied.
That number — 113 — is likely an undercount, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Since 2011, Multnomah County has produced a report on deaths in the area’s homeless population. In 2019, the number of such deaths jumped by 21.
Report author, Dr. Paul Lewis, speculates the increase is mainly due to an increase in people experiencing homelessness.
“The broad causes and manners of death are similar to other years,” Lewis said a a news conference Monday.
According to the report, drugs or alcohol were involved in about half of the reported deaths in 2019, and more than half of the people who died — 63 — were found outside, in sidewalks, parks and parking lots.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury pointed to increased rents in the Portland area and lack of federal funding as driving causes of homelessness.
“We need a serious and comprehensive federal response now,” Kafoury said, calling the deaths “largely preventable,” and adding, “it is not for us to look away.”
Lewis also cautioned that the report was “clearly an undercount” of actual deaths. It is based on reports from the medical examiner, and not all deaths are reported through that channel, and only includes people that could be verified to be homeless in Multnomah County at the time they died.