(Update: Adding video, details from Dahlgren on findings, comments by homeless in Bend)
Encounters grim outlook among area homeless: 'I have no future for myself - I really don't'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A Portland drug counselor and nationally known homeless consultant spoke in Bend Thursday evening on the ongoing homelessness crisis in Central Oregon after spending a few days visiting several encampments around the area.
Kevin Dahlgren said he seeks to help people suffering from homelessness find shelter, ways to get sober and access to long-term housing and ways to stay clean.
Dahlgren spent time this week performing direct homeless outreach in Bend along China Hat Road, Hunnell Road and at Juniper Ridge.
Dahlgren says his biggest concern is how well the problem is hidden, with dozens of people currently living in the woods in Central Oregon.
In an interview clip from his Twitter account, Dahlgren asks a current homeless person and fentanyl user, "Well, let me ask you this, where do you see yourself like in a month or a year?"
The interview subject replied: "In a grave, for sure. I have no future for myself -- I really don't."
It's just one of many clips Dahlgren has posted to his Twitter page.
He takes to the streets of cities like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and now Bend to document the homeless. He aims to identify problems and explore solutions.
I talked with Dahlgren Friday on Clausen Drive in Bend.
"We only have a population of about 100,000 here," he said. "And even though we have a lot of homeless, if we all work together on common-sense solutions, we can end the crisis."
In another clip from his Twitter account, Dahlgren asks how a 19-year old girl is doing after recently becoming homeless in Bend and getting addicted to fentanyl.
The interviewee replied, "It's really, honestly -- this time around, it's been really hard. Like, the way being an addict with the homelessness is very challenging."
Dahlgren has found that most homeless folks here are not from Central Oregon, and appear to be outcasts from mainstream society.
"I would say 80% of the time, the homeless people I've met in Bend, Oregon say they come here from out of state," he said. "And so a high percentage came here because they heard this is a place to do drugs, this is a place to be homeless, and everyone will leave them alone."
In another Twitter clip, a woman who has lost friends to fentanyl expresses her grief.
"In the past two years, because of that drug (fentanyl) I've lost 119 friends. And since the beginning of the year, 19."
As for solutions, Dahlgren advocates for an increase in outreach.
"It builds trust, and it brings back hope," he said. "Most of the homeless I've met out here in Bend have no hope."
Dahlgren plans to return to Bend in two weeks, and hopes to meet with Bend city leaders.
His work has previously been covered by CNN and the New York Post, which referred to him as "a leading homelessness expert exposing the dysfunction of our social-service system."
"We will end this humanitarian crisis not with big budgets or unrealistic utopian fantasies but by empowering people to reach their fullest potential," he said in an opinion piece for the Post.
Dahlgren recently told Portland's KOIN: "“This is less of a homeless issue or a housing issue. This is a drug issue. This is a mental health issue. We tackle those issues first, the homeless piece is going to be a lot easier to solve.”