PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Community volunteers worked hard to help Multnomah County’s most vulnerable stay cool on the same day county officials said they are investigating a possible heat-related death.
The person died on Thursday in Portland, county officials said. The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Program launched an investigation into the death but whether or not the person died of hyperthermia won’t be confirmed for several weeks.
A spokesperson for Multnomah County said about 780 people had taken advantage of the county’s cooling centers as of Friday morning compared to about 1,400 overnight cooling center guests during the June heatwave. The cooling centers are visited by many people experiencing homelessness as well as those who have housing but don’t have air conditioning to stay cool.
A cooling center in Lents Park opened by the nonprofit group PDX Saints Love was a popular spot on Friday. Teams of volunteers spent time on outreach along the Springwater Trail and I-205 corridors to make sure people were aware of the cooling center and that it would be offering water, food, cold rags and other items to prevent overheating. There was also a misting station nearby.
“It’s been exceptional, there’s been a lot of people coming through either housed or houseless,” said volunteer Spencer Beckert. “You know, we won’t turn away any campers, people with cars, we’ll give them full cases of water.”
“Our heart behind this is because we have so many folks out here who refuse to go into cooling centers mostly because they can’t regulate behavior or they have pets or they have too many things they’re carrying,” said Kristle Delihanty, the executive director and founder of PDX Saints Love.
Delihanty said she was homeless nine years ago and never thought she’d be where she is today. She said it’s huge to be able to give others hope in this way. She said they had a few medical emergencies due to the heat but have been able to quickly recognize the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion after what they saw during the extreme heat at the end of June.
KOIN 6 has been checking with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management to find out what else they’re doing to reach people who are housed since most who died in late June were elderly and lived alone. Portland firefighters checked on people at mobile home parks in Southeast Portland on Thursday.
Prior to the heatwave in June, only two hyperthermia deaths had been recorded in Multnomah County since 2010, officials said. So far, 62 people have been confirmed to have died from the heat in late June in Multnomah County. That number could climb as several more toxicology reports are completed.