PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County is once again seeing houseless youth using things like shelters, drop-in spaces and other services after seeing a dip in the number of people served during the pandemic.
The county estimates that there are approximately 2,000 houseless youth (people 25 years old or younger) in Multnomah County. A spokesperson said that the county has the ability to help approximately 1,100 houseless youth every year. However, with new investments into supportive housing, it is expected that the county can assist approximately 250 more people in need each year.
Approximately 93% of houseless youth are dealing with either mental health or addiction issues, according to Multnomah County.
Forrest Rioux said while they were houseless, they saw those issues firsthand, “It was really stressful and traumatizing.”
Rioux said they called the streets of downtown home for a little less than a year.
“Took a while for me to acknowledge to myself as being someone that needed help but I definitely did need help,” said Rioux. Finding food or access to basic needs was a constant struggle.
“A lot of times you can’t really hold down a job when you’re on the streets either so it’s like hard to make it to another place in life,” said Rioux. “I found that things were getting worst a lot of my friends were getting into drug use and things like that and I didn’t want to fall into that so I realized I really needed to get off the streets.”
They said that they reached out to local nonprofits in hopes of keeping themselves from falling into a cycle of addiction. They worked with New Avenues for Youth that works to help both at-risk and houseless youth.
“Our programs are built to meet young people along the spectrum whether they’re at risk of homelessness or their experiencing homelessness we’re helping where they are and help them get where they want to go,” said a spokesperson with New Avenues for Youth.
Rioux also worked with PAVE and was able to land a stable job to help them get back on their feet and break the cycle that they had described of not being to hold down a job due to their houselessness.
"NAFY helped me out, I got involved with PAVE that’s how I got involved with this job really, doing the job-readiness program and making into Ben & Jerry’s,” said Rioux. The Ben & Jerry’s on SW Yamhill provides job training for houseless and at-risk young adults, partnering with New Avenues for Youth.
Rioux is a manager at the Ben & Jerry’s now and wants other houseless youth to know there’s hope.
“Don’t let pride get in the way of getting the help you need, there is nothing wrong with getting a helping hand,” they said. “Sometimes it does feel hopeless out there. it does. and it’s sad, but even when you’re at rock bottom things can make themselves better.”