In Short

Oregonians cite homelessness as chief concern, survey finds

By: - October 28, 2022 5:30 am

On any given day, about 15,000 people in Oregon lack housing across the state. Portland alone counts about 2,000, including people living in tents and campers off Southeast Powell Boulevard in Portland. (Fred Joe/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Many Oregonians want elected leaders to tackle homelessness, a state survey found.

Thirty-seven percent of 1,878 Oregonians surveyed identified the state’s homelessness crisis as the most pressing issue, according to a survey by the Portland-based nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. The online survey of Oregonians 18 and older was conducted Sept. 13 to 21.

Differences emerged across geographic regions. In the tri-county Portland region, 47% of respondents called homeless the top problem, the highest of any area. That compares with 36% in the Willamette Valley and 29% in the rest of the state. 

“I have never been threatened by the homeless but recognize that it is an issue that demands action,” said one Multnomah County man who participated in the survey. “While there are other issues that will influence my vote at other levels, this is the primary issue at the local level.”

Homelessness has emerged as the key issue among candidates running for election Nov. 8, with Republicans bashing Oregon’s Democratic leadership for the problem. On any day as of January 2020, nearly 14,700 people in Oregon had no stable housing, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless. It said about 4,300 were chronically homeless.

The overall result was similar to an April survey, in which 35% identified homelessness as the top issue.

Respondents said their second top issue was affordable housing, identified by 15% of respondents. The third issue was crime and safety, according to  12% of participants. Women highlighted housing needs more than men – 17% versus 12%.

And 8% of Oregonians ranked addiction, substance abuse and drugs as the most important issue, making it fourth on the list. That rate was similar across most demographic groups. A total of 6% of respondents ranked the cost of living, prices and inflation as the most important issue, making it fifth on the list.

Those with a high school education were more concerned about inflation – 10% – than those with some college education, 3% to 4%. 

The survey has  a margin of error of 2.47%.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from the Midwest to Idaho for his first journalism job. Botkin has won multiple awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.