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Here's how many homeless people died in Oregon in the first 6 months of 2022

A new law took effect at the beginning of the year that requires the state to keep track of whether someone is homeless when they die.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Hundreds of people experiencing homelessness are dying in Oregon every year. It's a big part of why the state is looking into solutions like Safe Rest Villages to ease the ongoing homeless crisis.

A new law took effect at the beginning of the year that requires the state to keep track of whether someone is homeless when they die. This month, the state released data for the first six months of 2022.

From January to June, 207 people experiencing homelessness died; 35% of those deaths occurred in Multnomah County. The month of January had the most deaths with a total of 48. 

According to the state, men accounted for 165 deaths — nearly 80% of the total — and women accounted for 48 deaths. More than half of those who died were over the age of 55. 

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So how did all these people die? 

According to the data, 32 people died from unintended injuries, eight died by suicide and seven died by homicide. The overwhelming majority of deaths were labeled as "natural causes." That could mean a lot of things, as the report does not include specifics such as illness, weather or any other health factors. 

Scott Kerman is the executive director of the Blanchet House, which provides food, transitional housing and addiction services for homeless people in Portland. 

He noted that while it's possible some of the deaths did not have an official cause of death, things like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic illnesses, physical disabilities, mental health challenges and addiction are common within the homeless community. 

The data also shows that some people of color face a disproportionate danger from living on the streets. 

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Although more than 80% of homeless people who died this year were white, Native Americans represented more than 6% of deaths despite making up less than 2% of the state population. Black people, who represent 6% of the state population, made up more than 4% of deaths. 

Kerman said he sees the danger people are living every day. 

"There's a lot of tragedy going on. We had one of our meal guests murdered across the street in February. His name was James Wise. We had another meal guest who was attacked recently. His name is Scotty, and we believe that they are not doing well, from what we understand. So I think it just underscores that these are lives that are being lost, and I think we can say one way or the other, however the cause of death is determined, housing and insecurity and homelessness played a role."

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