July 23, 2024

Oregonians express concern about homelessness and drug addiction, survey says

The makeshift shelters and possessions of homeless people line a block in downtown Salem on May 31, 2023. Oregonians identified homelessness as the most important issue facing state leaders in a recent survey. Oregon Capital Chronicle photo by Ben Botkin
October 9, 2023

Housing supply and affordability also among top concerns

By Ben Botkin, Oregon Capital Chronicle 

More than 40% of Oregon adults believe homelessness is the most important issue in the state, according to a recent survey.

In August, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center asked residents statewide about Oregon’s general direction and the most pressing problems. More than 2,700 Oregonians responded to the online survey.

They were asked whether the state is headed in the right direction or on the wrong track, whether they are worried about the future and to identify the most important issues for Oregon. 

About 44% identified homelessness as the top issue they want elected officials in Oregon to address. In a similar survey nearly a year ago, Oregonians also identified homelessness as the top issue. 

“Homelessness is the biggest blip on the radar screen for Oregonians,” Amaury Vogel, the center’s associate executive director, said in a statement. “It continues to be the most important issue for every single demographic group.”

An estimated 18,000 Oregonians were homeless on a single night in 2022, when the state conducted a point-in-time count of how many unsheltered people are in the state. Experts say the actual number of homeless Oregonians is likely higher, as those counts miss people without homes who are temporarily staying with friends or family, and they may not include people camped in remote areas or homeless people who were in hospitals or jails at the time of the count. 

Between 2020 and 2022, Oregon’s homeless population grew by 3,304 people, an increase of nearly 23%, according to a U.S. Census report.

Gov. Tina Kotek has made addressing the state’s homelessness crisis a top priority of her administration and approved $1.2 billion in new spending on homelessness and affordable housing.

Trailing beyond homelessness, 16% of Oregonians identified drug addiction and abuse as the second most important issue. And almost as many Oregonians — 15% — said housing supply and affordability are a top priority. 

That comes as Oregon faces a drug addiction and overdose epidemic, as fatal fentanyl overdoses have alarmed state officials and public health leaders. State lawmakers formed a new committee to address drug addiction and Measure 110, the voter-passed initiative that decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs and put cannabis revenue into addiction services.

Oregonians are closely divided about whether the state is headed in the right direction. About 46% say Oregon is going in the wrong track, slightly more than the 45% who believe the state is going in the right direction.

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Oct. 10: Corrected Amaury Vogel’s name.

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Bert Etling

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