PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Cold winter weather is sweeping through the Portland area, bringing snow flurries and dangerous conditions for those living on city streets.
Downtown Portland saw the city’s first few snow flurries on Tuesday morning. Many shelters in the area added overflow mats as a cold-weather advisory went into effect for the night.
Overnight warming shelters open when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. About 2,000 publicly-funded beds are available during severe weather days throughout Multnomah County. Private community partners also host dozens of people.
County and city officials are encouraging people to seek out shelters on cold nights for the safety of the entire community.
Portland Fire and Rescue had to put out a homeless campfire at NW Naito Parkway and Burnside on Tuesday after campers used a heating device inside of a tent.
“When it comes to using that device for heating, those propane cooking devices create a lot of carbon dioxide; it’s gas that can’t be smelled very well, there’s no way to detect it.”
Officials said no one was hurt.
“If that tent had actually — the physical tent caught fire while they were in it — it would have not provided enough time for them to get out,” said Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Rich Chatman. “That would have potentially been a serious injury or death.”
Wet and cold
Transition Projects operates nine shelters in the metro area and provides an extra 330 mats across three different shelters during severe weather. Staff members also walk the streets to make sure the homeless have warm clothing.
“People are getting cold, they are wet; people’s shoes are wet, their socks are wet,” said Matt Olguin, the director of residential services at Transitions Projects.
Groups like Transition Projects help provide shelter to those who need it most.
“The big part there is when they leave the next day, they are warm, they have food and coffee and their clothes are dry, instead of just maintaining cold, wet clothes,” said Olguin.
There are also open beds year-round and shelters open throughout the winter regardless of the weather.