Hours before they bedded down Tuesday night under the Morrison Bridge, Carter “Joe” Hickman and Albert “Allen” Dean, sought shelter at an Old Town homeless tent area, said Ibrahim Mubarak, who runs the shelter. They were turned away for lack of room — an increasingly common event for Portland-area shelters.
At 5:12 a.m. Wednesday, Portland police officers responded to reports of a shooting under the bridge’s east side. Hickman, 57, and Dean, 43, were shot while they slept. Both are expected to survive. The assailant remains unknown, but police have a description of the vehicle.
The two men had shown up Tuesday night with a third friend, Mubarak said. “All three were turned away because we were full,” he said. Each night, the shelter, Right 2 Dream Too, turns away an average of 20 people, he said.
Mubarak knows Hickman, who remains in fair condition at OHSU Hospital. Hickman frequently slept at the shelter, which occupies a vacant lot by Old Town’s Chinese Gates. Dean was treated for a grazing wound and released.
The circumstances of Wednesday’s shooting underscore the area’s severe shortage of homeless shelters. Demand has never been higher, advocates say.
Hickman and Dean are two of the roughly 2,700 homeless people who sleep outside, in vehicles, abandoned buildings or in Multnomah County’s emergency shelters. In Washington County, 1,356 people were homeless or in transitional housing on a one-night count in 2011. Clackamas County homeless numbered 2,747 last year, with only 48 beds in emergency shelters.
Homelessness increased 8 percent in Multnomah County in 2011, according to a survey by Portland Housing Bureau and Multnomah County. In January, 361 men and 173 women were waiting for a room at Transition Projects Inc., Portland’s largest homeless agency for single adults.
Portland Homeless Family Solutions, which shelters families, used to overfill three or four times a year. Today, the agency fills 75 percent of the time, said Brandi Tuck, Executive Director. “For years, we have not had less than capacity,” she said. Twenty families are waiting for shelter. The average wait is one month.
“A lot of homeless just camp out on the Springwater Corridor or downtown in alleyways, underneath awnings,” Coleman said.
Washington County’s three homeless shelters are full, too. In January, 64 families were waiting for emergency shelter, said Annette M. Evans, Homeless Program Coordinator for Washington County’s Department of Housing Services.
Demand no longer spikes only in winter, advocates said.
“When I first came here 17 years ago, we would see a substantial difference between summer and winter,” said Doreen Binder, Transition Projects’ Executive Director. “We don’t see that anymore.”
When winter warming shelters close in spring, demand at other emergency shelters rises, said CityTeam’s Roger Burke.
With shelters chronically full, it’s hard to track changes in demand. But another yardstick, meals served to the homeless, shows increased demand. Zarephath Kitchen in Gresham served a record 142,000 meals last year. Portland Rescue Mission on West Burnside normally serves 250 to 350 meals a day. Last Tuesday, it dished up 420.
Age is another change in homelessness. Today’s homeless men and women are younger than in previous years. More mothers and children are homeless, as well, advocates said.
“We used to see a lot of two-parent families with kids who had been around for a while,” Tuck said. “Now, we’re seeing younger parents with toddlers.”
At 5 p.m. Thursday, a line of men stretched down a Portland block, each hoping to secure a mat to sleep on the floor at CityTeam International, a homeless shelter on Grand Avenue.
When the doors opened at 6 p.m., the line surged forward. Within 10 minutes, all but six of the 51 spots were taken.
“We can’t keep up,” said Rev. Chuck Currie, who has worked with homeless issues for 25 years. “Portland is the national model for how to address homelessness, but that only shows you how bad off the rest of the country is.”
Deborah Kafoury, a Multnomah County commissioner who works on housing issues, points to programs such as Rapid Rehousing for Homeless Families as one solution. The program seeks to get families into permanent housing quickly, often by working with landlords.
“When families lose their housing, we’ve found jumping through a bunch of hoops is not helpful to anyone and costs more money,” she said.
Portland Mercury: Drive-By Shooting Injures Two Homeless Men Sleeping Under Morrison Bridge
Portland Mercury: Homeless Men Shot Under Morrison Bridge Had Been Turned Away from Packed Old Town Tent Refuge
KATU TV: Two homeless men shot in ‘drive-by’ under Morrison Bridge
KPTV TV: Homeless men shot while sleeping under Morrison Bridge
Rev. Chuck Currie: Statement On Ash Wednesday Shootings Of Homeless Portlanders
The Oregonian: Two Homeless Men Shot While Sleeping Under Morrison Bridge
The Oregonian: Police Release Suspect Information, Victim Names in Homeless Shooting
Right 2 Survive Pdx: Right 2 Dream Too Response to Shootings of Two Unhoused Men