A few years ago, I was at a meeting about emergency crisis preparedness and I spoke to a Red Cross worker, who had been trying to prepare different communities for the different regions. He didn’t know who I was (and I still can’t remember his name), but I asked him, “What is the number one emergency crisis that could hit Multnomah County?” His response was, “The emergency crisis that Multnomah County faces every day is homelessness… but I don’t think that’s what you are asking.” It wasn’t, but it should have been.
Recently, the mayor of Portland and Los Angeles declared homelessness an “emergency crisis”, but we have lived with this crisis for such a long time, we don’t have the drive to get ourselves worked up for it.
If an emergency, such as an earthquake or hurricane hit our county and left four thousand people homeless, it would make headlines across the nation. Yet the four thousand people who are homeless make no headlines at all. But we should recognize that homelessness has all the hallmarks of an emergency crisis, without a dramatic event.
92 percent of all homeless women have been physically or sexually assaulted. (National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, http://www.vawnet.org/applied-research-papers/print-document.php?doc_id=558 )
90 percent of all homeless men and 100 percent of all homeless women suffer from PTSD (Australian/New Zealand Psychiatry http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11127626 )
Those who experience homeless are a third to a fourth more likely to die young.
(Care of the Homeless, University of Tennessee Health Science Center) http://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0415/p634.pdf
Those who experience chronic homelessness cost the public between 30 and 50 thousand dollars per homeless person per year. (US Interagency Council on Homelessness-- http://usich.gov/population/chronic)
Let's be certain about one thing: Homelessness is a severe crisis. People's lives are on the line. Let's take it with the seriousness it deserves.