On-campus death brings homelessness closer to Lincoln


Jamie Bikales

A pile of needles lies among other garbage on the embankment next to the I-405 overpass. A man overdosed from heroin on the Lincoln campus June 16.

Portland’s growing homeless crisis hit home for Lincoln High School during the summer when police found a man who had fatally overdosed on campus.

The man was 23.  His body was found June 16, a week after school dismissed for the summer. The authorities could not identify the man, but confirmed he had died of a heroin overdose.

“My immediate thought was, ‘This was someone’s 23 year old. I have a 23-year-old daughter. It is heartbreaking,’” said Principal Peyton Chapman.

Homelessness has been an issue in Portland for decades but the problem has worsened in the last few years.  According to the city of Portland, about 3,800 people sleep on the streets, under the bridges or in parks of the city every night.

Secretary Charelle Pennington was on campus when the man was found. Lawn maintenance told Pennington that a homeless man was sleeping in the bushes outside the northwest entrance. She then went to Vice Principal Sean Mailey. The man would not wake up and was cold, stiff, and blue. They immediately called the police.

The problem of homelessness is exacerbated by the growing issue of heroin addiction. According to North Point Recovery Center, heroin is the second-leading cause of fatal overdoses in Oregon and more than 50 percent of those deaths happened in Portland or elsewhere in Multnomah County.

“Heroin is a drug that we should all be very scared of,” said Chapman. “People don’t control it; it controls them.”