Tripled homeless population termed "crisis" by Commissioner Meieran

Posted on: Monday, 13 December 2021

Sharon Meieran sees Portland's homeless crisis with two distinct lens: She's an emergency room doctor with Kaiser.

And she's a Multnomah County commissioner for District 1 (which in part includes the Pearl District). Speaking Dec. 7 to Portland Pearl Rotary, Meieran described the challenging era as one where "people fall through so many cracks...ending up in the emergency room."

But it's far from ideal as far as treatment that works long-term, she said. "So much of what we see is behavioral health"--mental illness which is often exacerbated by substance abuse. While sharing a long list of programs that cross government lines and include social service agencies and non-profits, Meieran shared a focus on prevention.

"We [are trying] to do some things to intervene upstream so we don't fall into a crisis. It is a crisis." Meieran's own experience includes volunteering medical aid at homeless camps.

And she observed: "The fastest-growing population is seniors 55 and over...half have never been homeless before." Keeping people housed is the priority, she believes: "Supportive housing is the best long-term solution to chronic homelessness." The growth of people on the streets of Portland is staggering.

A count three years ago suggested 2,000; estimates today put that number as having tripled. And, "people of color are over-represented in the homeless situation." "A complicated landscape"--she concluded. "...

The situation is horrible; Covid has definitely made it worse. "Broad-based strategies are needed," she added, citing free places for parking and the advent of micro villages as needed efforts. He talk of 20 minutes was followed by an almost equal time devoted to Q&A with Rotarians. Meieran can be contacted by email at district1@multco.us.

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