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Think Out Loud

Homeless Deaths

Pete Springer/OPB

A recent report by Multnomah County showed that last year approximately one person died each week on the streets of Multnomah County. It’s a pretty high number, and one that that causes many people to stop and listen for a minute. But the truth is actually in what’s left out of that statistic. Here’s why…

First of all, of course, that number represents Multnomah County alone. Homelessness is a huge problem across the state — and one that isn’t represented in this study.

Second, the deaths represented in this study only reflect people counted by the County Medical Examiner. That means they died from specific circumstances such as accidents, suicide, toxic substances, or while not under the care of a physician. This study didn’t use data from hospitals and doctors and shelters and other social service agencies as it was too difficult to get in the time available. Finding out this information would reveal so much more about what’s really happening and where the holes are in the system.

In today’s show we’ll dig into the details of the study — what it says and what it doesn’t — and then find out what the next steps are to better understand what death on the street really looks like.

Here’s a look at the county’s press conference:

Have you spent time being homeless? Have you ever encountered someone who was very sick, or potentially dying, while homeless? What care and support did they receive? What cracks in the system should be filled to decrease the number of people dying “domicile unknown”?

drugs health homeless suicide

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OPB | Broadcast: May 2, 2012