Homelessness surges to top concern among Portlanders, poll finds

Homelessness surges to top concern among Portlanders, poll finds

A new poll of Portland-area voters found that 33 percent of them consider homelessness the biggest issue facing the city and region -- a sharp increase from past years.

Polling company DHM Research has found that sentiment is true of the state’s voters as a whole as well.

The annual telephone poll is commissioned by the Portland Business Alliance. The latest was conducted in December 2018 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent. This year, the poll showed that homelessness far outstripped other priorities, but affordable housing and traffic congestion were also top concerns.

In the poll, 33 percent of 510 demographically representative voters in the Portland area named something specifically related to homelessness when asked their greatest point of concern. The complaints tended to include people yelling at passersby on the street, trash and other visible symptoms of homelessness.

In 2011, only 1 percent of people polled said homelessness was the city’s biggest problem. Concerns took off after 2014 and have climbed steadily since. From December 2017 to December 2018, that number jumped nearly 10 percentage points.

Concern about lack of affordable housing, one of the main drivers of homelessness in Portland and the West Coast, came in at 11 percent. That is about the same as last year’s poll.

Voters said they are largely satisfied with the economy and jobs outlook this year, which could indicate that some people are less concerned with making rent payments and the risk of homelessness themselves.

Michelle Neiss, CEO of DHM, said that could be part of why polled participants pinpointed mental health and addiction treatment as the ideal solution, not affordable housing.

“Homelessness has to be our first, second and third priority, just as citizens, as well as the business community,” said Portland Business Alliance CEO Andrew Hoan.