PORTLAND, Ore. -- A report released Thursday morning by the Multnomah County Health Department shows 80 homeless people died on area streets, in hospitals, RVs and shelters.
That’s more than one every week.
“This is too many,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Paul Lewis. “They're too young, and they're mostly preventable.”
The “Domicile Unknown” report, which has been compiled and released annually since 2011, shows the latest count dropped slightly from 2015’s total of 88.
It also shows the 2016 figure is still staggeringly higher than that of 2011. That year, 47 homeless people died.
This year, 63 of the 80 deaths were men, with a mean age of 51. Of the 17 homeless women who died, the average age was 43.
Forty percent of them overall died on the streets. A little more than 20 percent died in hospitals, RV's hotels or shelters.
The report shows, in half of the cases, drugs or alcohol contributed to or caused the person’s death. In half of those cases, or 20, the person died using heroin or other opioids.
“If you're suffering from a mental health issue, from a substance abuse issue, how are you going to get into treatment if you don't even have a home?” said Lewis.
Officials also pointed to weather as a contributing factor.
During the record-setting 2016-17 winter, at least four homeless campers died of exposure.
Lewis said Thursday officials now believe that number may have been higher.
He added he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one or more members of Portland’s homeless population died during recent cold stretches, including this week.