Background on Homelessness in Portland
In 1961 the Dammasch State Hospital opened to treat those will mental illnesses, but the patient abuse and overcrowding led the hospital to close in 1995. Instead of reforming the treatment system, patients were simply released with no further help (The Daily Signal).
Twentyfive years later, the effects are still felt with the widespread drug addiction and mental illness still present in the homeless population of Portland today. The problem has only become worse over the years, particularly with homeless veterans, a population particularly succeptible to PTSD.
The Unity Center’s Vice President, Chris Ferentinos, says “I think the individuals who are homeless that have a mental illness, most of the time have difficulty staying in stable housing because their behavior sometimes is a little different or they’re out of control (KGW8).
In my research of local organizations, I was able to find a variety of temporary shelters and food options for the homeless. However, there was almost nothing to provide any type of healthcare, much less mental healthcare or drug rehabilitation. In fact, my search results repeatedly pulled up an program in Portland, Maine within the Greater Portland Health organization, “Healthcare for the Homeless.” This program not only provides a free clinic to those who need it but also helps to suppost the homeless through informal counseling, drug treatment plans, and community education. So why does Maine, with a homeless population around 2,000, have a program like this while Oregon, with nearly 16,000 homeless, has very few resources for basic healthcare needs (USICH)? My hope is for Oregon to take greater initiative to provide free or affordable drug abuse treatment centers and mental healthcare programs for the homeless. While this is a big step, for now I hope to spread information about this issue and increase awareness.
How Does Your City Help?
Look into what resources your city has for its homeless population and comment below one new thing you’ve learned and what kinds of healthcare access are provided, if any. I believe this problem likely expands beyond Portland, Oregon, and by bringing more awareness I hope this can eventually lead to the beginnings of organizations to help.