PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Andrew and Samantha Fleminger loaded up their car to take cold weather gear to the homeless in Southeast Portland on Christmas morning.
“You can’t help sometimes the situation you are in,” Andrew told KOIN 6 News.
“My husband was looking online yesterday and found that Joint Services was giving out blankets and things to the homeless, but they needed volunteers,” Samantha said.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services opened their supply center in downtown Portland on Christmas afternoon. That’s where they store large quantities of cold weather gear and invite community partners and volunteers, like Andrew and Samantha Fleminger, to help distribute it.
This couple’s desire to help is very personal.
“We were homeless for, like, two years. It’s something we do to give back,” Andrew told KOIN 6 News. “We know where people are coming from so we try to help out as much as we can.”
“We were there at one point. We couldn’t afford a tent, we couldn’t afford sleeping bags,” Samantha said.
That’s why they said these donations can be life-savers.
“We have a good group of people that we’ve been in contact with in the last 5-6 years that we usually go and see in the neighborhood in Southeast Portland and they are very grateful, extremely grateful, especially when it’s cold and they don’t have hot meals to eat,” Samantha said. “It’s important when its 20 degrees outside to be warm. This is a huge deal that the county and people donate to give back to people when it’s cold out.”
Marc Jolin, the director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services for Multnomah County and the City of Portland, said people appreciate the help.
“A lot of folks are worried, you know. It’s getting cold, it’s geting wet, their gear is wet. They are not sure what they are going to do,” Jolin said. “To have somebody come and say, you know, ‘here’s some dry gear, here’s a tent, keep yourself safe, do you want transportation to a shelter because we can help you with that.’ That can be life saving.”
Jolin said the supply center will open again to volunteers from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
He also encouraged people to call 211 to find out where the warming shelters have opened up and to find how to get a free ride to a shelter. TriMet is also offering free rides to anyone trying to get to a shelter.
If you see someone in a crisis situation, call 911. If you’re concerned about someone’s welfare, call the police non-emergency line in your community.
“Regardless of what they have going on in their lives, everybody is human and we all need some help sometimes. And this is the way we like to give back,” Andrew said.
“And,” Samantha added, “if you can, please give back.”