Oregonians’ attitudes related to houselessness, policies, funding, root causes and effective interventions.

From February 11-20, 2023, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire. 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.

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroups variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions.

OVBC surveys currently use 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.

Oregonians Remain Seriously Concerned about Houselessness and Affordable Housing

  • Oregonians are notably concerned about houselessness (Q38), with a majority (58%) saying they are very worried.  A similar percentage of Oregonians are worried about the related issue of affordable housing (Q49, 57%). A second tier of concerns includes substance abuse and addiction (Q39 47%), increasing polarization in politics (Q43, 45%), political violence (Q41, 42%), and the impacts of climate change (Q37, 41&).
    • Compared to other demographic groups, women are clearly the most worried about houselessness in Oregon.
  • Houselessness has ranked as the top issue for Oregonians over the past few years, with concern levels reaching a fever pitch at times.
    • In a September 2022 survey conducted by OVBC, homelessness was the top concern listed in an open-ended question, with nearly four in ten Oregonians listing houselessness as the most important issue for local leaders to address.
    • Another OVBC survey conducted in November 2021 revealed seven in ten Oregonians felt it was urgent or very important for leaders in their community to do something about houselessness.

Oregonians Mostly Favor Directing Public Funds to Address Houselessness

  • A strong majority of Oregonians favor directing public funds to all people experiencing houselessness (Q53), while half favor offering assistance only to those experiencing houselessness for reasons beyond their control (Q55).
    • Fewer Oregonians call for restrictions on the use of funds contingent on the involvement of nonprofit, religious, and philanthropic organizations (Q54).
      • Just one-third believe Oregonians who are experiencing houselessness should not be given public assistance (Q56). Finally, Oregonians are the least likely to agree that only nonprofit, religious, and philanthropic organizations should provide services for people experiencing houselessness (Q57).
    • While there are some differences of opinions between subgroups, they are largely about the degree of belief rather than representing clear differences of opinion.

Oregonians in Their Own Words: Best Allocation of Public Funds to Address Houselessness

  • For some Oregonians, this is a very personal issue (Q58):

“I am homeless and there are very few opportunities for me to get access to a new home without a job and many places won’t hire you if you are homeless. I struggle with serious mental illness and addiction issues, although in recovery, but still I feel absolutely defeated.”

Non-binary, age 18-29, Marion County, Asian and White

“We need affordable housing. I can’t afford to rent a studio apartment. I would be homeless if it weren’t for family.”

Woman, age 55-64, Umatilla County, Hispanic/Latina/x

  • Many respondents shared where they thought the funding should go:

“We need to address the root causes of homelessness, not necessarily homelessness itself. We first need to address the massive issues in our state such as drug abuse and family issues such as the rise of single-parent households. Economic issues should also be kept in mind when trying to combat homelessness.”

Man, age 30-44, Deschutes County, Other race

“More support is needed to address substance abuse and mental illness that drive homelessness. And crimes committed by the homeless need to be enforced.”

Man, age 30-44, Multnomah County, White

 “Housing first! That’s what the research says so that’s what I support. First and foremost people need to be housed and cared for by the government. That’s both the least costly and most moral and ethical option.”

Woman, age 55-64, Multnomah County, Black or African American

“Instead of continuing to pay the police to brutalize and assault the homeless, the police budget should be cut and the money should go to purchasing housing to be given to homeless people in Oregon for free, to be lived in without cost for as long as they need, even permanently.”

Woman, age 18-29, Lane County, Hispanic/Latina/x

  • Others look to examples in different countries:

“Finland eliminated homelessness. The government provided housing, food, skills training/education and medical care to all ‘involuntary’ homeless. They had to pass random drug tests. In most cases within 6 months people began career training; and within 2 years had moved out of homeless housing to their own self pay apartments. Longer term residents were usually there due to disabilities which prevented competitive employment. The only ‘homeless’ in Finland are people struggling with substance abuse.”

Woman, age 30-44, Clatsop County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

“When you look at countries with low rates of homelessness, it is ALWAYS because of public funding. We will not get out of this through philanthropic efforts only.”

Woman, age 18-29, Lane County, White

  • Although in the minority, some Oregonians are unsure of who is deserving of public funding help:

“You have to differentiate between those that CHOOSE to be homeless and those that don’t.”

Man, age 65-74, Linn County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

“Homelessness is a problem, but I waffle between helping them. They need to take responsibility for the choices they have made, but deserve some help, though only if they are making an effort to work and contribute to society.”

Non-binary, age 30-44, Klamath County, White

Root Causes as Identified by Oregonians

  • Over the last few years, Oregonians have affirmed their belief in the importance of public services to address what they see as the root causes of houselessness: affordability and availability of housing, mental health challenges, and drug addiction.
    • In an October 2022 OVBC survey, residents shared they broadly believe that the public sector should either provide services like mental health services, long-term or permanent housing, and drug treatment rehabilitation directly to those experiencing houselessness, or work in partnerships with other organizations to do so.
      • Similarly, in a September 2022 survey conducted by OVBC, a majority of Oregonians called for local officials to provide additional public funds to address homelessness.
      • In that same September 2022 survey, Oregonians also largely agreed that the state should guarantee temporary housing or shelter and permanent housing as basic human rights.