On any given day, about 15,000 people in Oregon lack housing across the state. Portland alone counts about 2,000, including people living in tents and campers off Southeast Powell Boulevard in Portland. (Photo by Fred Joe/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Many Oregonians want elected leaders to tackle homelessness, a state survey found.

Thirty-seven percent of 1,878 Oregonians surveyed identified the state’s homelessness crisis as the most pressing issue, according to a survey by the Portland-based nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. The online survey of Oregonians 18 and older was conducted Sept. 13 to 21.

Differences emerged across geographic regions. In the tri-county Portland region, 47% of respondents called homeless the top problem, the highest of any area. That compares with 36% in the Willamette Valley and 29% in the rest of the state. 

“I have never been threatened by the homeless but recognize that it is an issue that demands action,” said one Multnomah County man who participated in the survey. “While there are other issues that will influence my vote at other levels, this is the primary issue at the local level.”

Homelessness has emerged as the key issue among candidates running for election Nov. 8, with Republicans bashing Oregon’s Democratic leadership for the problem. On any day as of January 2020, nearly 14,700 people in Oregon had no stable housing, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless. It said about 4,300 were chronically homeless.

The overall result was similar to an April survey, in which 35% identified homelessness as the top issue.

Respondents said their second top issue was affordable housing, identified by 15% of respondents. The third issue was crime and safety, according to  12% of participants. Women highlighted housing needs more than men – 17% versus 12%.

And 8% of Oregonians ranked addiction, substance abuse and drugs as the most important issue, making it fourth on the list. That rate was similar across most demographic groups. A total of 6% of respondents ranked the cost of living, prices and inflation as the most important issue, making it fifth on the list.

Those with a high school education were more concerned about inflation – 10% – than those with some college education, 3% to 4%. 

The survey has  a margin of error of 2.47%.

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report.