Multnomah County experienced its first extended period of severe winter weather this season from the night of Saturday, Dec. 23, and the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 27.
During this time, hundreds of homeless people who would otherwise have been unsheltered found refuge in severe weather shelters. These shelters opened on demand with the help of scores of volunteers from the community.
In East Multnomah County, a new shelter site was opened at the Sunrise Center, with capacity for up to 60 people. That site was operated with a combination of staff from Transition Projects, community volunteers and Multnomah County employees.
In East Portland, the all volunteer-led Montavilla Warming Center opened and provided safety out of the cold for 25 people a night.
North Portland’s All One network of faith organizations continued its practice of offering warming shelter at University Park United Methodist Church, 4775 N Lombard St., and offered shelter to as many as 50 people per night.
In Portland’s central city, additional shelters opened. The Union Gospel Mission opened its facility as overnight shelter for upwards of 40 people per night. Portland Rescue Mission expanded its shelter capacity to nightly shelter an additional 50 people.
The Salvation Army’s Female Emergency Shelter (SAFES) opened extra space for the winter, in order to shelter an additional 35 women. And there is shelter space for families this winter at a shelter hosted by Congregation Beth Israel and operated by Portland Homeless Family Solutions.
The City of Portland and Multnomah County, in partnership with Transition Projects and the Imago Dei Community, opened two additional shelters, each with capacity to hold up 120 people per night - one at the Imago Dei Community and one at the Bud Clark Commons. As with all the shelters, these also relied heavily on volunteers for overnight staffing.
For the first time this year, the warming centers were also staffed with Medical Reserve Corps members who were able to provide basic care to guests coming in from the severe weather and assist with triaging individuals who needed higher levels of care.
While not all the additional shelters were open each of the nights, more than 300 additional beds were available each night and no one was turned away from shelter. Over the course of the four nights, hundreds people received shelter who otherwise would have remained outside.
In addition to offering shelter, non-profit and volunteer outreach teams, partnering with first responders, conducted coordinated outreach during the day and at night throughout the event, contacting vulnerable individuals, offering them information and transportation to the shelters, as well as cold weather gear - blankets, tarps, hats, gloves, etc.
This was just the first of what are predicted to be several severe weather events this season. Our response depends on the entire community pulling together to care for those whose lives are at risk during these events.
Please support the organizations that are stepping up to provide shelter and outreach. You can be trained to volunteer in one of the shelters, you can donate cold weather gear, and you can provide financial support that helps organizations sustain their sheltering efforts.
For more information on how and where you can help, please visit 211info.org.