Hypothermia claims life of homeless man in Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The first days of 2017 have been icy cold, and a homeless man in East Portland died as a result of hypothermia Monday night, police said.

Officers were called to do a welfare check on an unresponsive man lying in front of a business on E Burnside Street around 7:45 p.m., Portland Police Bureau said.

They found 51-year-old Mark E. Johnson of Hillsboro lying on a pillow with a blanket covering his body. Firefighters determined he had died hours earlier.

The medical examiner determined Johnson died of hypothermia.

As the county scrambles to open more warming shelters, groups like JOIN and Transition Projects have their outreach teams combing the streets and working overtime to make sure everyone is staying safe.

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A homeless man named Keith told KOIN 6 News he was hoping to get a room at Union Gospel Mission Tuesday night, but he’s been stuck out in the cold before.

“Once your hands and your nose area gets cold and your feet, it seems like you’re going to shut down,” Keith said. “A lot of people, you know, they can’t survive it.”

Keith said many people sedate themselves with drugs or alcohol to deal with the cold.

“It’s a war out here to stay warm,” homeless advocate Terry Hickman said.

To find out if there are any shelters open near you, call 211.

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