Pop-up pool keeps homeless cool during Portland heat wave

Multnomah County

'We set up some rules that you'd find at your typical public pool'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — While the effects of the record-shattering heat wave are still unfolding — nearly 100 people in Oregon died in the heat — the impact on the homeless community still hasn’t been fully measured.

But some homeless campers spent time at a pop-up pool underneath an overpass of Hwy 99E near Division. The pool is now deflated, but while it was up it was full of water and campers trying to stay cool in the record heat.

Patrick, who also goes by his nickname Ninja, told KOIN 6 News a camper from another spot gave them the pool.

“It belongs to a friend of mine who lives in a different campsite,” Ninja said. “They live by the water so they don’t need a pool there and we need a cooling station so they brought it up here.”

But in order for it to be usable, it had to be level. “So we gathered some, like, pallet wood,” he said. Once it was up near a fire hydrant, it was ready for people.

Homeless campers enjoyed a pop-up pool under the overpass at Hwy 99E and Division during the late June 2021 heat wave (Courtesy: Sergio Olmos)

“We set up some rules that you’d find at your typical public pool,” he said. “No weapons, no drugs, no smoking, no violence, keep your problems away from here.”

Some of the people who used the pool had spent time at the cooling center at the Oregon Convention Center.

“Fifteen people total used it so far,” Ninja said. “As long as they were respectful they were welcome.”

He said he was grateful for the pop-up pool.

“It definitely is a blessing when it’s 107 degrees out. I’ve had heat stroke before and I don’t want to ever get it again.”

Homeless campers enjoyed a pop-up pool under the overpass at Hwy 99E and Division during the late June 2021 heat wave. It’s now deflated, July 2, 2021 (KOIN)

In Multnomah County alone, the medical examiner reported at least 59 people died from the excessive heat.

Ninja said he didn’t know of any homeless people who died in the heat wave. But Multnomah County Communications Director Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said it’s not known how many of the 59 who died were homeless.

“The overwhelming majority died in their homes but at this stage we are not able to release the exact number of people experiencing homelessness because of missing information,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Washington County Health Department told KOIN 6 News that among the 8 cases of heat wave related deaths in the county, 3 appear to be homeless.

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