Office of County Commissioner Sharon Meieran 

For immediate release: Dec. 21, 2023

Media contact:

Adam Lyons,

Commissioner Meieran on Latest Domicile Unknown ReportThe Measure of Our Moral Failure

Multnomah County just released its latest Domicile Unknown report and the details are predictably devastating. At LEAST 315 unhoused people died on our streets in 2022 - A 63% increase from last year’s similar announcement of a crisis in need of action. 

The document is a clear indictment of the County’s failed approach to homelessness, mental illness and addiction. What is even more damning, however, is that for years the trend has been clear and the County has chosen not to act.

Instead, we’ve wrung our hands, convened committees, held meetings, issued press releases, and bemoaned the tragic conditions experienced by people living on our streets. Everything except acting with urgency to intervene on the deadliest conditions our streets have ever seen.

Last year, I implored the County Chair to take action. I predicted if the Chair didn’t change course, things would get much worse. She didn’t, and they have. Portland and Multnomah County have become a vortex where people experiencing homelessness are being killed by drugs, violence, and motor vehicles.

As I’ve said many times, we need to not only declare the fentanyl crisis a public health emergency — but actually treat it like one. Elected officials with roofs over our heads need to stop just sounding sympathetic and actually decide to make a difference. Last week the Chair seemed to finally make the declaration with the Governor standing next to her on stage, but I’ve yet to see any indication of actual steps to be taken. 

We must urgently scale up residential and intensive outpatient treatment and couple this with hundreds of units of recovery housing; re-open an emergency sobering center; and release a cohesive, coordinated plan to address the fentanyl crisis.

If I treated the people coming into my ER the way the County treats emergencies, my patients would be dead. Except they wouldn’t even make it to the ER because there are so few ambulances available due to the County’s failed handling of our EMS crisis. The Domicile Unknown report is a vicious barometer of our moral failure.

Words alone don’t save lives. Only action will lead to a decline in homelessness and death.  The Chair has the authority and responsibility to change course and save lives.  This is Multnomah County’s responsibility, start to finish.  I challenge us to reflect on our moral failure this holiday season and spend the New Year changing our direction and our approach, on behalf of all those who no longer have the ability to call out for help.