56 people died while homeless in 2012, Multnomah County reports

Homeless person being ignored

At least 56 people experiencing homelessness died in Multnomah County in 2012, an average of at least one every week. That is the troubling finding of Multnomah County’s second annual “Domicile Unknown’’ report released Friday, May 10.

READDomicile Unknown, 2012 (PDF, 406KB)

The analysis by Dr. Paul Lewis, Deputy Health Officer for Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, is based on data collected by the Oregon State Medical Examiner and Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office. The report is produced by Multnomah County, the City of Portland and Street Roots.

Dr. Lewis said the ages of the people involved, and the causes of the deaths, suggest that virtually all the deaths were avoidable. More than half the deaths were accidental and included death from overdose, drowning, burns and hypothermia. The average age of death was about 46.

“Forty-six is too young to die,’’ Lewis said. “Especially since most of these deaths are preventable.’’

Israel Bayer, executive director of Street Roots, said that, “as a community we should pause and understand that each one of these people was a human being who passed away far too early in life.

“Housing is not only the safest way to provide people adequate health care, it’s also the most cost effective,’’ Bayer said. “We know that by providing people a safe and stable home that we can give people the opportunity to live long and successful lives.’’

Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury said the report is key to understanding the impact of homelessness.

“This report makes it clear why we need to end homelessness in Multnomah County,’’ Kafoury said.  “Each of the people in this report was someone’s brother, sister, mother, father or neighbor.  Their lives matter and so do the lives of every person in our community.”