MultCo warming shelters open but volunteers needed

Multnomah County

7 shelters open in the county, many more around the state

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ben Combs heard the call for volunteers and decided to answer it.

As the temperatures stay below freezing, Multnomah County opened 6 warming shelters with another one at Reynolds High School set to open at 8 p.m. Monday. But city and county leader are in desperate need of people to help at these shelters.

“We’ve been standing out here for 10 minutes and I’m freezing cold,” Combs told KOIN 6 News. “So just knowing a lot of people are going to be out on the streets, I was like, I have room in my schedule. What’s 4 hours?”

Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan said he hopes more volunteers like Combs will step up to help at the warming shelters.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away. We want to save lives. We’re going to open up a couple more. However, that’s why, the main message,” Ryan said, is “we need people to volunteer.”

County officials said there were 162 people at the shelters on Saturday night and 248 Sunday. They only expect that need for shelter to grow.

Mattresses on the floor at the Oregon Convention Center for a warming shelter during a winter storm, December 27, 2021 (KOIN)

Emergency manager Alice Busch said, “The longer the cold weather stays the more full the shelters become.”

In Old Town, Blanchet House had a very busy Monday. They’re helping by providing 100 meals a day to those warming shelters.

“We’re also serving meals to the people outside who don’t want to leave their tents,” said Peer Support Specialist Jennifer Coon.

Ryan told KOIN 6 News all of this is more important than ever.

211info — Housing and Shelter

“There’s a great need today because these are really cold temperatures and there’s more houseless people than in the past,” he said.

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