On any given night, about 4,000 people sleep on the streets, in cars, or in shelters across Portland. Homeless people include adults, youth, couples, and families with children. They are living on the streets, either temporarily or for the long-term, for a variety of reasons. They may have become homeless because of an untreated mental illness, a physical disability, domestic violence, loss of a job, or chemical dependency.
Homelessness was a relatively rare phenomenon until the 1980s, when many economic and social changes converged to cause its dramatic rise. These changes included the lack of growth in real earnings for those with low incomes, a growing scarcity of affordable housing, and the closing of institutions that had long served the mentally ill.