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City Council candidate responds to Monday report saying 79 homeless people died in Multnomah County last year.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith with Wapato Jail owner Jordan Schnitzer at a press conference at the North Portland facility earlier thisyear.City Council candidate Loretta Smith said Wednesday that the most recent report on homeless deaths supports her repeated calls to open the former unused Multnomah County Wapato Jail for the homeless.

Multnomah County and the Street Roots homeless advocacy organization release a report Monday that said 79 homeless people died on the streets in the county in 2017, about the same as the previous two years. About 60 percent died from drug and alcohol addiction. The numbers were similar to the previous two years.

"We must take bold action now to help those living on our streets, most struggling with drug and alcohol addictions," Smith said. "We can open Wapato now, provide stable housing and help those with substance abuse issues that has made it difficult to get off the streets," said Smith, a Multnomah County Commissioner running to succeed Commissioner Dan Saltzman on the City Council.

Her opponent, activist Jo Ann Hardesty, opposes opening Wapato for the homeless, saying the remote North Portland facility is too far from existing services, among other things.

The new report tallied 79 homeless people who died in the county last year. According to Smith, Wapato could help provide shelter and social services to some of the 1,700 unsheltered individuals in our community.

"The data from Multnomah County has been clear — more than half of the people living unsheltered on the streets suffer from addiction, this report emphasizes the severity of this problem," said Smith. "It's urgent we act. I want to do everything I can to ensure that not one more person dies on our city streets this winter."

Wapato was purchased by Portland developer and philanthropist Jordan Schnitzer for $5 million earlier this year. He has solicited proposed to open it for the homeless, but has not yet received any viable ones. State Rep. Knute Buehler, the Republican candidate for Oregon governor, has promised to open it for the homeless if he win the Nov. 6 General Election.

You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the report at https://tinyurl.com/ybaqbsra.

Wapato would help provide immediate shelter and social services to some of the 1,700 unsheltered individuals in our community.

Multnomah County Commissioner and Portland City Council candidate Loretta Smith today again reaffirmed her call to open Wapato as a temporary homeless shelter with on-site mental health and addiction services. The Domicile Unknown report released yesterday tallied 79 homeless people who died on our streets, with most — 60 percent — dying from drug and alcohol addictions.

"We must take bold action now to help those living on our streets, most struggling with drug and alcohol addictions," Smith said. "We can open Wapato now, provide stable housing and help those with substance abuse issues that has made it difficult to get off the streets."

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