Jennifer Drain, 33, shot dead in downtown Portland, was a former foster child looking for shelter, beauty in the midst of suffering

The victim of a Thursday night shooting in downtown Portland was a 33-year-old homeless woman whose quest to be housed was reported by The Oregonian / OregonLive just three months before her death.

Police on Monday identified Jennifer Drain as the dead woman near West Burnside Street and Northwest Sixth Avenue. People near the scene that night said they only heard one shot and that their friend had been shot once in the head. Police said Drain died of a gunshot wound, but did not release any other information.

Drain is at least the fifth homeless person to die from homicidal violence this year. She was also one of four people who died in downtown Portland shootings last week.

His death was bracketed by other gun deaths. A 19-year-old Portland State University student was shot dead near the school campus on April 4; Student Keenan Harpole, 20, was arrested on a murder charge. On Friday, a man died after being shot in the neck under the Burnside Bridge. And on Sunday, a woman was killed and another wounded after a shooting in 1200 Southwest Clay Street.

Drain’s friends mourn the death of the person they knew as imperfect but kind, dedicated to seeing beauty amidst suffering and hardship.

His favorite breakfast was biscuits and gravy. She had naturally dirty blonde hair but she loved dyeing it bright red. She had a little dog that she loved fiercely. Scrappy and independent, she navigated the street life using her watch, her wits, favorite songs on her phone, and friendships with those she thought she could trust.

In the wake of his violent death, a vase of flowers stood outside his home tent – not a memorial, but a touch of beauty that, according to friends, Drain often placed there to make life in the elements seem more familiar.

Drain has never lived an easy life.

She grew up in New Mexico and Utah before moving to Portland as an adult for the chance of a fresh start.

She entered the Utah foster care system at the age of 5 and aged at 22.

Drain’s maternal aunt Lori Baker, who lives in Kansas City, said she and Drain’s grandmother fought to support Drain’s parents and the little girl, whose middle name Lee Ann was a combination of Baker’s middle name. , Lee, and his grandmother’s middle name, Ann.

Ultimately, Baker said, she and her mom felt let down by Utah’s foster care system on Jennifer Drain’s behalf.

After years of moving from house to house, she said one day she felt like the state system kicked her out the door. She was offered a Job Corps training program, but they did not help her find accommodation or offer her any other services.

She was interned as a court clerk for the Human Services Department in Utah through the training program. She has attended vocational school twice: the first time to become a certified assistant nurse and the second time she received a culinary certificate. When his grandmother fell ill, he cared for her until her death.

In a full shot, a person to the left of the shot walks towards the camera carrying several bags.  Behind them, to the right of the frame, is a row of curtains on the sidewalk

Jennifer Drain, 33, was photographed walking away from one of the downtown areas she lived in on the street in December 2021. Drain was shot dead outside her tent near West Burnside Street and Northwest Sixth Avenue. on April 7. Oregon

But when she was 11, perhaps the biggest change of her life happened: one of her adoptive brothers introduced her to methamphetamine.

“It was awful,” he told The Oregonian / OregonLive months ago. “I have been more mistreated and abused in foster care than ever by my own parents. The state said I was neglected and mistreated, which is why I was taken away, but I don’t think I was. My father loved me, my mother hated me. “

His mother still lives in Texas. Baker said Drain’s father eventually met a similar fate as her daughter in Portland, dying of gunshot wounds.

Drain has used methamphetamine for most of her life – after it was introduced to her as a child it was difficult to extricate herself from it, she said. She got used to the way she helped her feel more energetic and clear-headed.

Almost a decade ago, she seriously injured her back when she was hit by a snowmobile, she said. She has been prescribed painkillers. The prescriptions eventually stopped coming but her pain didn’t stop, so she started taking opioids, which eventually led to heroin.

Drain was also diagnosed with a brain tumor. But because she’s been homeless for years, she said she didn’t want to have surgery without having a safe place to recover. His headaches persisted, but methamphetamine and opioids helped ease the pain.

Three months before she was killed, Drain said she wanted help accessing housing and support services. She said she never came into contact with social workers who help unprotected people access support. She said she probably wouldn’t be able to go through the arduous steps of finding accommodation on her own: addiction had been a part of her life for so long, she wasn’t sure she was strong enough to do it.

The week before he died, he was packing his bags with a plan to return to where some of his family members lived, according to friends who lived without shelter near where he lived. Her friends have asked to remain anonymous for fear of further violence.

Baker said that when she saw Drain’s photos in The Oregonian / OregonLive, her “strikingly beautiful eyes” and “tiny hands” were the same as when she was a child.

“When I saw that picture of his hands, it reminded me of this time when he was 9 or 10 when he wanted to plant a garden,” Baker said. “It was the sweetest little thing.”

Recalling the emotional and physical pain her granddaughter felt, she said, “She was so lost … If only she didn’t have that pain.”

Drain’s three friends said they knew she wasn’t perfect, but they loved her with all her flaws. They talked about how worried they were that the “blue pills,” which are fake oxycodone pills indistinguishable from the prescription version, often intertwined with lethal fentanyl, were making sure Drain wasn’t acting alone in the last week.

Friday morning, hours after Drain was fatally shot, two friends were carefully packing Drain’s personal belongings in hopes of giving them to one of Drain’s family members.

The two women quickly grabbed a camp chair for another friend who was sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. She said that Drain was her best friend.

Friends muttered about what might have prompted someone to target Drain – was it the fact that he witnessed two more recent shootings? Was it because he owed someone $ 5? Was it because people thought he was giving information to the police? Did it have anything to do with “the blues” fentanyl pills? Nobody knows.

But all three feared what continued violence might bring.

Portland has so far recorded 29 murders in 2022, two more than the city had suffered at this point last year. At least 92 people were killed in the Portland murders in 2021, breaking the city’s previous record of 70 murders in 1987.

Staff reporter Savannah Eadens contributed to this story.

Nicole Hayden talks about homelessness for The Oregonian / Oregonlive. She can be reached at nhayden@oregonian.com or on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.

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