Study: Homeless make up 70% of Portland pedestrian deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland Bureau of Transportation study found that 70% of pedestrians hit and killed by cars last year were homeless, according to a news report.

Of the 27 people hit and killed last year, 19 were homeless, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday. The number of homeless people killed in such crashes in previous years was zero to just a few, said Bureau spokesman Dylan Rivera.

Rivera said it’s not clear exactly what led to the big jump this year, but homeless encampments are increasingly located along freeways and major thoroughfares.

Despite spending tens of millions to reduce traffic fatalities in the past few years under an initiative called Vision Zero, the city saw 63 such deaths last year — the highest number since 1990.

Rivera said he nonetheless believes there are “reasons for hope” that the city’s campaign was working. No bicyclists died in traffic crashes in Portland in 2021, compared with an average of 2.6 traffic deaths over the past five years. And a street redesign project on one busy street with a high number of crashes led to an 80% decline in speeding drivers, he told the station.

Kaia Sand, the head of homeless advocacy group and alternative newspaper Street Roots, said deaths and injuries like the ones cataloged in the report are a reminder of the ways people living on the streets are uniquely vulnerable.

“When I read those numbers, I was astonished, but also the numbers ring true in the sense that in all of these different areas again and again we just see that homelessness and early death are linked,” she said. “All of these tragedies pile up.”