Community Partner

Sisters of the Road Cafe

First Advisor

Melissa Haeffner

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Management (MEM)


Environmental Science and Management




Homeless persons -- Services for -- Oregon -- Portland, Water-supply, Water security, COVID-19 Pandemic (2020- ), Environmental justice, Homeless persons -- Health and hygiene -- Oregon -- Portland




Only in recent years has houselessness been viewed as an environmental justice issue, and little is understood about the environmental injustices of water insecurity among unhoused individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to understand the environmental injustices (i.e., distributive, procedural, and recognition) of the water insecurity process using the cause-response-effect theoretical model, unhoused participants living near services were interviewed in Portland, Oregon about their lived experiences gaining access to water, the barriers they encounter when trying to access water, and the impacts that result from these barriers. Results revealed that COVID-19 was a barrier to water access and sanitation due to shut-offs, building closures, and shelter-in-place policies. Bringing the three pillars of environmental justice to bear on houseless water access, my results show that not only are hygiene options unevenly distributed throughout the city (distributive injustice). By restricting the physical movement of houseless individuals, the criminalization of houselessness in Portland segregates their opinions and ideas from the public sector and makes them invisible (procedural injustice). The feelings of shame from poor hygiene (distributive injustice) and criminalization (procedural injustice) lead directly to a loss of dignity (recognition injustice). Addressing all three pillars of environmental justice (beyond handing out water, for example) will reduce barriers and mitigate impacts.


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A project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Environmental Management.

Portland State Institutional Review Board (Protocol #227657-18)

Persistent Identifier