Oregon News

Survey: Homelessness and housing top the list of Oregon’s worries

By ZACK DEMARS
Oregon Capital Bureau

Oregonians are worried — especially about the state’s homelessness and housing issues.

Four in five residents in Oregon say they’re “moderately” or “very” worried about homelessness, and a similar share expressed worry about affordable housing as an issue in a recent survey from the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center.

The worry about housing and homelessness comes as no surprise as attention in the state continues to ramp up on the issues. Just last week, legislators passed an expansive, $220 million package designed to provide shelter and accelerate the state’s housing production.

The survey, conducted between Feb. 11 and 20, included responses from just over 2,500 Oregon residents from across regions and demographic characteristics.

The survey had a margin of error of 1.94%.

“Homelessness is not a STATE problem. It is a national problem. That means more federal help is needed to address the problem. And, yes, that does mean more taxes,” wrote John Garagliano, a Lane County Democrat, in his survey response. “But, we don’t know how much addressing the homeless problem will save in other tax areas (e.g. police, jails, etc.).”

Asked what to do about homelessness, survey respondents generally agreed public funds should be directed to support those experiencing homelessness. That’s similar to sentiments expressed in a September survey, when a large majority of respondents agreed that the state should guarantee temporary housing or shelter.

Two-thirds of respondents to the most recent survey agreed that public funds should be given to all people experiencing homelessness, while around a third said people who are homeless should be “responsible for themselves” and not expect public assistance.

“Taking individual responsibility for the situation you are in must take place. People will only want more and more when it is given to them,” wrote Billy Dixon, a Multnomah County Republican in his response to the survey. “Folks must be expected to work for the assistance they receive. Give them a trash can, broom, and dust pan.”

Some respondents who felt public funds should be used for responding to homelessness advocated for a “housing first” approach. That’s a strategy where people experiencing homelessness first enter into housing and then, once they’ve gained some stability, can begin to address other issues they face.

“It’s been proven that the housing first model works,” wrote Deschutes County Democrat Elizabeth Kirby in her survey response. “Once stable housing is established it’s much more likely that an individual will be able to overcome other issues that have contributed to their situation including mental health resources, addiction resources, financial counseling, etc.”

In the survey, Oregonians expressed worries about a whole host of other issues, from substance abuse, to the impact of climate change, to threats to democratic institutions.

More than half of respondents expressed worry about the sentiment that “things are generally getting worse, across the board.”

That feeling isn’t necessarily unique to Oregon: The share of Americans classified as “thriving” has been on the decline over the last few years, according to Gallup polling.

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