MultCo to offer cooling centers amid heatwave, services for homeless

Multnomah County

Homeless neighbors bracing for coming weekend forecasted in the triple digits

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services say they are opening cooling centers around the county facing a weekend forecasted in the triple digits.

According to Multnomah County’s website, cooling centers will be open for 24 hours starting at 1 p.m. Friday, June 25 through at least Monday, June 28 at the following Portland locations:

  • Oregon Convention Center – 777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
  • Sunrise Center – 18901 E Burnside St.
  • Arbor Lodge Shelter – 1952 N. Lombard St.

In addition, all five Multnomah County libraries will be open during the day to serve as cooling locations through the weekend. They will operate noon to 6 p.m. on Friday June 25 and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday June 26 through Monday June 28.

  • Capitol Hill Library: 10723 SW Capitol Hwy
  • Gresham Library: 385 NW Miller Ave
  • Kenton Library: 8226 N Denver Ave
  • Holgate Library: 7905 SE Holgate Blvd
  • Midland Library: 805 SE 122nd Ave

“That’s about four days of cooling centers that are going to be open. We may add more sites as needed. That’s for everyone though, so folks that are unsheltered can go to those places. Folks who are in a warm apartment that windows don’t open and you need a place to be during the day, you can go there too,” Denis Theriault, the Communications Coordinator for The Joint Office and Multnomah County told KOIN 6 News.

According to the county’s website, pets are allowed at the Oregon Convention Center, Arbor Lodge and Sunrise Center cooling centers. Pet owners are encouraged to bring their own supplies such as food, water, water bowls, waste bags, toys and leashes. When it comes to the libraries serving as cooling centers, only legal service animals are allowed.

COVID-19 precautions will also be in place to the extent possible while prioritizing immediate risk of life-threatening heat. When guests are cool enough to do so, they will be asked to put on a mask. Staff and volunteers will also be masked.

In regard to services specific to homeless people, he said anyone who needs transportation support should dial 2-11. In addition, mobile outreach teams are prepared to meet homeless campers where they are on the street to help them keep cool.

Homeless campers add canopies to their tents to try and beat the heat. June 22, 2021 (KOIN).

“We’ve been buying extra water bottles, cooling towels, misting bottles, electrolyte packets, Gatoraid packets essentially and things like that that we can make into kits. And we’ve been doing that for the past week and a half knowing that we were going to get to some rough weather. We didn’t know it was going to be this bad, but we knew it was going to be bad enough so we started that work a while ago.

On Tuesday, KOIN 6 News visited various homeless camps around town to see what they were doing to prepare for the coming heat. A KOIN 6 News reporter brought with them bottles of water, socks and masks to give out to anyone we talked to who was in need of some basic amenities or dehydrated. 

Charles Dunaway, a homeless neighbor of Northeast Portland, said he’s planning on beating the heat by using a lot of cold water, ringing out rags “and you know, bird bath,” he added with a chuckle. “Hard to get to a shower, too.”

Frederick Allen lives in a homeless camp in Southwest Portland. He said he’s trying to beat the heat by getting most of his physical activity done in the early hours of the day. June 22, 2021 (KOIN).

One homeless person in Southwest Portland who was asking motorists backed up in traffic for change near a major thoroughfare told KOIN 6 News he was pretty acclimated to the heat, having lived in places like Arizona and Nevada. 

“I didn’t think that I could take the heat as good as I have been lately. But I change my schedule up so that I sleep like 2-4 hour periods or 3-2 hour periods. And try to get as much done physically, early,” said Frederick Allen. 

“That’s why we’re all getting canopies. ‘Cause it keeps it really, really, almost cold in there,” added another homeless camper living in a tent in Southwest Portland who wanted to remain anonymous. “But it’s keeping me on a good sleep schedule. The sun shines in my face at 7 a.m.”

Editor’s note: this story contains an update to reflect Multnomah County expanding the hours of their cooling centers to be 24 hours.

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