From September 13-21, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including beliefs and attitudes about homelessness in Oregon. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.
The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q3,Q18-23). Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs. Subgroup variations between BIPOC and white Oregonians; rural and urban residents; and between age groups have been of particular interest to individuals and organizations and are provided in the Demographic Trends section below.
Homelessness is THE Top Concern for Oregonians
Homelessness is the issue Oregonians say is most important for leaders to address, by a wide margin (37%) (Q3).
The issue of homelessness has been a top concern for Oregonians for a while. In an April 2022 survey, 35% said homelessness needed to be addressed.
“Homelessness and out of control high rents which create more homeless.”Woman, age 65-74, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latina/x
“There is a serious gap between the rich and the poor, and many people have no income or even are homeless. Increase equity, increase homeless temporary shelters.”Man, age 30-44, Clatsop County, white
“House the homeless and make healthy, clean and sustainably grown food available to all.”Woman, age 65-74, Multnomah County, Prefer Not to Disclose
“They need to fix the homeless problem its out of control and they keep doing nothing but making it worse.”Man, age 30-44, Lane County, Black or African American, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native, and White
“I would like the homeless problem to be either helped or resolved.”Woman, age 30-44, Marion County, Hispanic/Latina/x
Leading Causes of Homelessness According to Oregonians
In a November 2021 survey, Oregonians ranked mental illness (61%), substance abuse (58%), and lack of affordable housing (54%) as the leading causes of homelessness. These three factors are also among the most popular priorities that Oregonians want elected officials to address. Housing affordability is mentioned by 15% of Oregonians, making it the second most popular issue, while 8% mention addiction and substance abuse and 4% mention mental health as top priorities for elected leaders.
“Focus on community mental health clinics. The community should increase suicide and depression clinic windows, focus on mental health, and reduce medical costs”Woman, age 30-44, Multnomah County, white
“Elected leaders need to better address and mitigate the causes of homelessness (mental health, addiction, etc.).”Woman, age 55-64, Washington County, Asian
“After the legalization of drugs, there are more and more homeless people. I think it has a lot to do with this. We should better control the spread of drugs and opiates, and effectively control the increase of homeless people.”Man, age 30-44, Clatsop County, Black or African American
“I think the majority of issues could be summed up with income inequality. The lack/cost of housing is at the core of the homeless crisis. The lack of mental healthcare and addiction resources fueling the increasing crime. People are desperate and desperate people do desperate things.”Man, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x
“Focus on community mental health clinics. The community should increase suicide and depression clinic windows, focus on mental health, and reduce medical costs”Woman, age 30-44, Multnomah County, white
Should Local Officials Allocate More Money to Reduce Homelessness?
Nearly six in ten Oregonians call for local officials to allocate more money to reduce homelessness (57%) (Q18). Beyond that, 18% say the right amount has been allocated, 13% that less should be allocated, and 12% that they don’t know.
- Women are more likely (61%) than men (53%) to say more should be allocated to help reduce homelessness.
- Democrats are the most likely to call for more spending (71%), compared to 36% of Republicans and 55% of other Oregonians.
- Renters call for more funding (67%) more often than homeowners (50%).
- Oregonians with incomes of $50K or under (62%) are more likely than those with higher incomes (50%-55%) to call for more funding to reduce homelessness.
“Definitely need more funding for the homeless to help get them off the streets. That would help businesses and it would help so many more things.”Man, ages 18-29, Multnomah County, Black or African American
“Homeless issues should be up to individual cities right tackle. If a city wants to increase their taxes to fund shelters, let that city do it but it shouldn’t be a state-controlled thing. Taxes never disappear.”Man, ages 30-44, Josephine County, Hispanic/Latino/x
“Homelessness is a growing issue. As joblessness and inflation rise, more become homeless. It has been shown that with a hand up, a high percentage of people can get back to taking care of themselves. Others need mental health help. There will always be ones that won’t take the help and are willing to stay as they are.”Woman, ages 65-74, Douglas County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White
“I believe that the funds that were earmarked for the homeless issue has been squandered, wasted or put in someone’s personal bank account.”Woman, ages 55-64, Washington County, Black or African American
“It is not only about funding but also utilizing the funding effectively. Houselessness is a systemic issue and funding is just a part of it. There needs to be a holistic solution to it with intervention and mental health support for people.”Woman, ages 30-44, Multnomah County, Asian
“More money is not the answer. Organized, thoughtful, logical actions are needed. We do not have enough leadership in place that can do this.”Woman, ages 65-74, Multnomah County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“Throwing money at the homeless issue hasn’t had reduced the problem. It’s created a whole industry supported by state funds that does little to actually improve the lives of the people it purports to serve.”Man, ages 45-54, Multnomah County, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
“The resources are there they just need to implement a plan of action to get people off the street and into homes. I still find it incredible that while the country is sending billions of dollars of aid to the Ukrainian conflict while its own citizens are living in tents or cars!”Woman, ages 55-64, Washington County, Black or African American
Majority Agree: Oregon Should Guarantee Temporary Housing
Seven in ten residents (71%) agree that Oregon should guarantee temporary housing or shelter: 42% strongly agree and 30% somewhat agree (Q19). About one in four disagree (23%)
- Women agree with the call for guaranteeing temporary housing (75%) more often than men (67%).
- Democrats (84%) are much more supportive than Republicans (46%) when it comes to providing temporary housing, while other Oregonians agree at a rate more similar to Democrats (73%).
- Renters (81%) are more likely to agree than homeowners (63%) that temporary housing should be guaranteed by the state.
- Those with school aged children in the household (78%) agree at a higher rate than those without (69%).
- Oregonians with incomes of $50K or below (79%) call for temporary housing at a significantly higher rate than those with higher incomes (64%).
“People should not sleep on the street. Give people jobs to do or send them to job training. Everyone needs to contribute something to our community.”Man, ages 30-44, Multnomah County, Asian
“Everyone deserves a safe place to sleep every night.”Man, ages 18-29, Benton County, White
“They should focus on zoning changes that allow development of more multi-unit housing and provide enough designated shelter space to enable removal of homeless camps on other public land elsewhere.”Man, ages 45-54, Washington County, Asian and White
“A lot of homeless people are not there by choice and they deserve to be helped and treated like humans.”Woman, ages 18-29, Lane County, White
“We need to be building safe centers for homeless and staff them to ensure their overall safety.”Man, ages 65-74, Linn County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“When the settlers came to Oregon, they were ‘homeless’ living in tents and covered wagons. It should not be a crime to sleep in your vehicle.”Man, ages 65-74, Coos County, Black or African American
Strong Support for Permanent Housing
Support for Oregon guaranteeing permanent housing or shelter is also strong, with 64% agreeing that access to permanent shelter or housing should be guaranteed as a basic human right for all residents (34% strongly, 30% somewhat) (Q20). Disagreement is slightly higher (29%) compared to disagreement for temporary housing (23%) (Q20,Q19).
- Women agree that the state should provide permanent housing (71%) at a higher rate than men (56%).
- Democrats (77%) agree with this statement at a much higher rate than Republicans (40%), while other Oregonians tend to agree with Democrats (64%).
- Renters (74%) favor access to permanent housing at a much higher rate than homeowners (55%).
- Those with a high school degree or less (69%) agree at a higher rate than those with more educational attainment (59%-62%).
- Finally, those with lower incomes agree with the right for permanent housing more often than those with higher incomes: 72% of those with incomes of under $50K, 61% of those with incomes of $50K-$100K, and 49% of those with incomes of $100K or higher.
“It seems to me that it’s less about getting people off of the street (some of whom want to be there) and more about increasing affordable housing. There are a lot of working people who are homeless, because they can’t afford to live where they work.”Woman, ages 30-44, Washington County, Black or African American
“Jesus Christ, do something about the housing crisis. Where are my tax dollars going?”Man, ages 18-29, Marion County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White
“Housing first programs are proven to be most effective to help the homeless, but the housing isn’t available in Portland or other areas. That is what needs to be addressed.”Woman, ages 55-64, Clackamas County, White
“I don’t think we’ve built any low-income housing or even affordable housing in 20 years. Everyone grumbles—I see a lot of hate against the homeless—and yet there is little to no action by government, only by individual volunteer groups. Why have government if they consistently turn a blind eye?”Woman, ages 65-74, Josephine County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“It’s been shown to be cheaper to simply get people who are homeless a decent place to stay than to fund all the programs that clearly seem not to be working.”Man, ages 55-64, Columbia County, White
“Stop allowing LLCs, Corporations, and REITs to buy houses. Regulate housing ownership like the public utility they are.”Man, ages 55-64, Lincoln County, White
“Homeless people have rights and should get housing. Vacation rentals and secondary homes should be taxed to the extreme. You don’t have to have a vacation home!”Woman, ages 30-44, Clatsop County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“Large homeless populations exist for no other reason than an imbalance between affordability and profitability. A well-regulated market must exist to favor solutions and not profitability.”Man, ages 65-74, Union County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“Metropolitan cities around the country have made tiny house/apartment communities that are more affordable. It would be amazing if we could also implement similar housing ideas in southern Oregon.”Woman, ages 18-29, Jackson County, Hispanic/Latina/x
“Housing first programs have shown to use less resources and funding than not having them in place. There is less cost because we aren’t having to pay the police to handle homelessness on the streets. It’s well proven that shelter is the first human need, having programs that require being clean from drugs or having a job to have shelter do not work as well because shelter is the first basic need.”Woman, ages 18-29, Polk County, White
Does The Issue of Homelessness Affect Voting Behavior?
Oregonians are split between saying the issue of homelessness makes them more likely to vote in November (46%) and that it does not affect their voting behavior (45%) (Q21). Few residents say it makes them less likely to vote (3%) or that they are unsure (6%).
Democrats (54%) are more likely to say homelessness will encourage them to vote than Republicans (40%) and other Oregonians (43%).
Renters (51%) are more likely to be motivated to vote by the issue of homelessness than homeowners are (42%).
“Homelessness is a hot topic and should be addressed immediately. However, I don’t think one idea or person is going to have all the answers. It shouldn’t be a political issue.”Man, ages 55-64, Linn County, White
“The fact we have so many homeless people in Oregon and the country is a sign this country is collapsing. Our government is being led by people out of touch with reality– we need younger and less wealthy politicians.”Woman, ages 45-54, Douglas County, White
No Clear Consensus When it Comes to Prioritizing Clearing Encampments vs. Providing Services
There is no clear consensus as to what course of action Oregonians want from elected officials when it comes to encampments. Some 46% say they’d rather vote for a candidate who would prioritize services to people living within homeless encampments, while 39% would rather vote for a candidate who would prioritize clearing encampments, and 15% are unsure (Q22).
- Women (50%) are more likely to favor a candidate who prioritizes providing services than men (42%), while men (45%) prefer someone who prioritizes clearing encampments more than women (34%).
- Democrats clearly favor someone who priorities providing services (62%) over clearing encampments (25%), while Republicans would rather vote for someone who will prioritize clearing encampments (65%) over providing services (22%). Other Oregonians are much closer to being evenly split, with 47% favoring prioritizing providing services and 39% favoring clearing encampments as the priority.
- A slim majority of renters prefer a candidate who gives priority to providing services (52%) over clearing encampments (33%), while homeowners slightly favor someone who prioritizes clearing encampments (46%) over providing services (40%).
- Oregonians with annual incomes under $50K would rather vote for someone whose priority is providing services (51%) over clearing encampments (30%), while those with incomes of $50K-$100K are split between the two (43% vs. 45%), and those with incomes of $100K or more favor a candidate gives priority to clearing encampments (49%) over providing services (39%).
“Clearings do nothing but move them elsewhere. The issue isn’t being addressed.”Woman, ages 30-44, Columbia County, Hispanic/Latina/x and White
“Clean up the city, don’t allow panhandling, don’t allow people to camp anywhere they want to.”Woman, ages 45-54, Klamath County, White
“Homeless people need help. Oregon should be the state to find a solution that works to help prevent people from becoming homeless and help those that are homeless find a path back to being able to support themselves.”Woman, ages 45-54, Linn County, White
“Homelessness is a serious problem in Portland, where I recently lived. It is simply unacceptable to allow the once vibrant downtown of Portland to be overrun with homeless camps. I know we can’t just ship the homeless somewhere else, but we do need some concerted action to provide the services and residence opportunities to get people off the street so that downtown becomes attractive again.”Man, ages 65-74, Clackamas County, White
“People need affordable housing, but they also need access to mental health/drug addiction services to help get them off the street.”Woman, ages 30-44, Washington County, Black or African American
“Homelessness isn’t just a problem about unhoused individuals. Homelessness in many cases are due to substance abuse and substance abuse is stemmed from mental health crisis. Too many people have been dismissed and left by the wayside in their need for proper mental health help. Abuse and trauma wreak havoc on one’s mental health and many, if not most, persons whom are homeless have unresolved trauma and PTSD.”Woman, age 30-44, Malheur County, White
“It remains one of the biggest scandals of one of the richest nations on earth to see the level of homelessness in Oregon. Allot the damn money already, build tiny houses, convert motels, build affordable housing, increase mental health services, remove the police as first contact with mentally ill people on the streets.”Man, ages 18-29, Multnomah County, White
“Homelessness is hugely impacting my area in rural Oregon and people are super torn on it here. Some people want to do all they can to help the homeless and some people don’t believe in giving handouts of any sort and believe we should starve them out. I honestly feel that inadequate mental health services are driving homelessness and if we focused more on mental health, we’d solve a lot of the homelessness issue.”Woman, ages 18-29, Coos County, White
“Clearing homeless camps is invasion of personal property which in history has cost many people their lives by being rebuked by the person whose space is being invaded. I would personally support the person defending their ground (especially in times where affordable housing isn’t available, there aren’t other places to go) in a jury trial.”Man, ages 18-29, Linn County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White
Identifying What Unites Us, Understanding What Divides Us
Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians, and age groups. Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives.
This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.
- Compared to white Oregonians, BIPOC Oregonians have a greater tendency to believe more should be done to support people experiencing homelessness.
- BIPOC Oregonians call for more spending to reduce homelessness at a higher rate than white Oregonians (63% compared to 56%) (Q18).
- BIPOC Oregonians say the state should guarantee temporary housing (82%) at a higher rate than white Oregonians (69%) (Q19). They are also more likely to say permanent housing should be guaranteed, but not by a statistically significant margin (BIPOC: 69%; white: 63%) (Q20).
- There are no meaningful differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians when it comes to the impact of homelessness on the likelihood they will vote (Q21).
- Compared to BIPOC Oregonians (34%), white Oregonians (41%) have more preference for a candidate who puts a higher priority on clearing encampments (Q22).
- While urban Oregonians favor more spending and guaranteed housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, there’s no difference across the state when it comes to the question of providing services to people experiencing homelessness or clearing encampments.
- Urban residents favor more money allocated to reduce homelessness (63%) at a higher rate than residents living in rural areas of the state (56%) (Q18).
- Urban Oregonians call for guaranteed temporary housing (80%), and permanent housing (71%), at a higher rate than rural Oregonians (temporary: 67%; permanent: 61%) (Q19,Q20).
- Urban Oregonians are more likely than rural Oregonians to say the issue of homelessness increases the probability that they will vote in November (urban: 46%; rural: 39%) (Q21).
- When it comes to prioritizing clearing encampments or providing services, urban residents are a bit more likely than rural Oregonians to support offering services (49% compared to 41%) (Q22).
- Younger residents tend to favor approaches to homelessness that are more supportive, while older residents tend to favor clearing encampments.
- Oregonians aged 30 to 44 are significantly more likely than any other age group to say local officials should allocate more money to help reduce homelessness (66% vs. 48%-58%) (Q18).
- Those under the age of 65 are more supportive of Oregon guaranteeing access to temporary housing and shelter (71%-83%), compared to 55% of those ages 65 and older (Q19).
- Younger Oregonians are also more supportive of guaranteed access to permanent housing. 75% of those ages 18-29 and 71% of those ages 30-44 agree it should be a right, compared to 54% of those ages 65-74 and 39% of those ages 75 and older (Q20).
- Oregonians under the age of 55 are more likely to say that homelessness will make them more likely to vote (47%-51%, compared to 38%-42% of those 55 or older), while Oregonians aged 55 and older are more likely to say it will have no impact (57%-59%, compared to 31%-41% of those younger than 55). These differences are likely the product of higher rates of voting among people 55 and older (Q21).
- There are notable differences by age when it comes to preference for candidate who prioritizes offering services or clearing encampments. Those ages 18-44 favor someone who prioritizes providing services (50%-56%) over clearing encampments (27%-33%), those ages 45-64 are split between the two (43%-45% providing services, 40%-49% clearing encampments), and Oregonians 65 or older favor someone who prioritizes clearing encampments (46%-50%) over providing services (38%-42%) (Q22).
Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,878 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.
Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample ±2.26%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.
 Survey conducted April 8-14, 2022; OVBC; N= 1,581; Q2