PORTLAND -- With winter-like weather approaching, County Chair Deborah Kafoury and service providers will update the community on plans for providing shelter, outreach, transportation and gear for people experiencing homelessness this winter.
The most recent Point in Time Count found more people sleeping in shelter than on Multnomah County’s streets for the first time. But for the hundreds of neighbors without shelter, even one day or night of severe weather – including high winds, and snow, sleet and ice – is a life-threatening event that requires an emergency response.
That’s why, no matter how many days of severe weather we might see, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and emergency management officials in Multnomah County and Portland all share a plan that can scale up rapidly to provide the necessary response.
The plan is centered on a fundamental commitment: No one who needs a warm, dry and safe place during severe weather will ever be turned away.
Outreach providers and first responders work with the Joint Office, emergency management officials and scores of volunteers and community-based organizations stand ready on any given night, depending on the whims of the forecast, to help hundreds of people into shelter with room to spare.
“It’s up to all of us to keep our neighbors warm, dry and safe when the weather turns deadly,” Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “I’m humbled, year after year, by the support and compassion in this community.”
Winter shelters also opening
But work to help our neighbors find safety starts well before severe weather strikes. Providers will open more than 250 of seasonal shelter beds, adding to the more than 1,300 year-round beds funded by the public. Those winter and year-round beds are separate from the hundreds of beds that open, as needed, only during severe weather.
The County’s Walnut Park building (5329 NE MLK, Portland) will host 80 beds for men, women, and people in couples. Transition Projects is operating the shelter.
Do Good Multnomah is adding 40 seasonal beds to its 40-bed shelter for veterans in Rose City Park. Of those beds, 30 will be set aside for non-veterans.
Portsmouth Union Church (4775 N. Lombard, Portland) is hosting a 50-bed shelter for the winter. The Church has traditionally provided beds during severe weather. The shelter is operating in partnership with Do Good Multnomah.
75 beds of winter shelter for people in families also will open next month.
New outreach protocols announced
This year, providers are adding additional outreach capacity during cold weather, but before our severe weather thresholds are reached. Outreach workers will specifically work with families experiencing homelessness this winter.
Also, under new “cold weather alerts” issued when temperatures are forecast to reach 32 degrees, providers will step up general outreach efforts, including the ability to purchase and distribute winter gear. And 211 will operate 24 hours and help connect people to any empty shelter beds.
Donation and volunteering information
in addition on Monday, community leaders will announce the return of an opportunity for residents to help out strategically before the weather turns dangerous.
Just like last year, 211info.org/donations will share information on training sessions for shelter volunteers as well as specific instructions for proactively donating winter gear.
“There’s so much more that you and your neighbors can do. Right now,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “Go to 211info.org/donations. You can see lists of the winter gear that our outreach workers rely on to keep people warm — and you can see where and when you can drop it off. It takes all of us. All year long. But especially when it’s cold outside.”