Home Interviews Portland, Unhoused: Matt Olguin

Portland, Unhoused: Matt Olguin

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Photo by Mischa Webley

Matt Olguin, Director of Shelter Services, Transition Projects Inc.

“You have this perception that all homeless people are drug addicts or criminals. The difference is that the people that we see who are experiencing homelessness who are bad actors and using drugs or committing various crimes – we see that specifically because they are homeless and don’t have another place to do those things.

But criminals walk all facets of life whether they’re experiencing homelessness or they’re in housing. So it’s trying to separate out those two things where it’s bad actors and criminality, versus people who are experiencing homelessness and more often than not are the victims. 

“People are homeless because they have no other options.”

We who are housed come from a level of privilege and we have to acknowledge that sometimes and show a little more empathy. You see someone experiencing homelessness and you think they had the same experience you had growing up, and therefore this is their choice that led them to where they’re at but it’s not taking into account whatever their experiences were. 

People are homeless because they have no other options. Some people have no options to begin with, some have burned those bridges and they have to try to repair them later in life. But every experience of homelessness is different and the drivers that led them to be homeless are different.

The vast majority of people became homeless here in Portland. It’s a Portland problem. That myth that the homeless are moving to Portland because of good services isn’t true.” 

— Interview by Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer