Did County lure homeless into death trap? ($52B heat wave case)

By Taxpayers Association of Oregon


We previously wrote about how Multnomah County’s $52 billion lawsuit against oil companies was slammed by the media.   Multnomah County believes it can abscond $52 billion dollars because they allege oil companies caused the 2021 Portland heat wave where nearly 100 people died.

Among the vulnerable in a heat wave have been the poor and the homeless.

As the county blames oil companies, what is the County’s responsibility for attracting homeless to come to the County?

The County’s actions contributed greatly to the homeless crisis and overwhelmed social services.  This scenario created by the County made this population to be at risk from any weather threat (freezes, floods, heat waves).


• In the few years running up to the heat wave Multnomah County made a public guarantee to house any homeless person who needed shelter.   This attracted a lot of people from outside the County and led to a tidal wave of homeless people trying to use it.  This overwhelmed the program and caused it to fail (but the homeless remained).

•  Before the pandemic, some cited Portland as having the longest homeless encampment in America.  The County/City bear some connection to creating one of the biggest and most uncontrolled homeless population problems in the entire nation.

•  In 2019, most of America saw a decrease in homeless, while Multnomah County saw an increase in homelessness.  What the County was doing was increasing homelessness.

•  There were signs that these camps were dangerous.   These camps were accounting for nearly half of all fires in Portland.

• In the six months before the heat wave, Multnomah County began handing out free $500 cash debit cards to homeless people.

• Also before the heat wave, Multnomah County began handing out free tents and tarps (total = 90,000) to the homeless.

• When the heat wave hit, the County and the City didn’t bother to open up all of their air conditioned recreation/library buildings to act as cooling stations.

• A year after the heat wave, despite spending millions of tax dollars to buy, in part, air conditioners for needy citizens, the government program ran into delays and wasn’t fully able to reach people until after the mid-summer heat season has passed.

• Even two years later, in 2023 when Multnomah County was hit by an advisory level heat wave, the County refused to open cooling centers.

When you look at the facts, you realize that Multnomah County was negligent in creating conditions for a homeless population overload that overwhelmed social services, police and shelters.  The actions of the County put everyone at risk of a dangerous weather event — hot or cold.   That event happened in 2021, and the County is trying to shift blame.

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