by Patrick Strickland
FAST FACTS: HOMELESSNESS IN PORTLAND
- There are at least 4.000 homeless people sleeping on the streets of Portland on any given night
- But the true number could be much higher as the city only records the homeless on one night of the year
- Between 2014 and 2015, Oregon witnessed an 8.7 percent growth in homelessness
- This came after a 20.5% rent rise
Sources: Portland Housing Bureau, National Association of Realtors Found, Database Zillow
Portland, Oregon, United States – When Marge Pettitt’s seven-year-old daughter broke down in tears in a homeless shelter in 2009, she made one of the hardest decisions of her life: Sending the child to live with her father, who had married another woman and moved into her apartment.
Marge, a 59-year-old with short greying hair and tobacco-stained fingers, found herself living on the streets after a difficult divorce 14 years ago. That year, she gave birth to her daughter, leaving the hospital and moving from one temporary homeless shelter to another before ending up back on the streets.
“I haven’t seen her in four years,” she says as she rolls a cigarette on a picnic table in Hazelnut Grove, a community for homeless people that is at risk of eviction.
Switching between English and Spanish, Marge, who is of Mexican-American descent, navigates memories of police harassment, sexual violence, humiliation and hunger. “They turn us [women] into men for a while,” she says casually. “You come in innocent and you end up tough.”
She is among the 564,708 people who are homeless in the United States, according to 2015 estimates by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Of that total, at least 15 percent are classified as “chronically homeless” because they have lived on the streets for a year or more.
Although many working-class people who live from pay cheque to pay cheque may be at risk of losing their homes, already marginalised groups – communities of colour, women, the disabled, indigenous people, LGBT people, runaway children and orphans – are particularly vulnerable.