PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland emergency management officials met with non-profit leaders on Wednesday in an effort to better serve refugees and non-English speakers in emergency shelters during heat waves and winter storms.

Rosaline Jinedri Yunusa Vakkai is one of nearly two-dozen non-profit leaders sharing lived experiences and concerns about severe weather with Portland emergency management officials.

Working with De Rose Community Bridge & Holistic Wellness — which serves refugees and undocumented people in the Portland metro area — Yunusa Vakkai says she serves people who live in the shadows and are forgotten about during public emergencies.

“I feel like I’m here representing a voice that ordinarily may not be heard,” said Yunusa Vakkai.

She says during 2022’s deadly heat wave, there were countless people in the communities she serves that didn’t have air conditioning in their home. She added that it’s time to implement cooling and warming centers that cater to refugees and people who don’t speak English as their primary language.

“Most of the immigrants that live in Portland live in rented apartments that don’t have air conditioners, so if there’s any time where they would want or need the city to look out for them alongside the homeless people, it’s during the hot weather,” Yunusa Vakkai said.

In the last two months, she says her organization has assisted 7,000 refugees and undocumented Portlanders, including some who are homeless. She explained the city needs cooling and warming centers that cater to these groups saying, “I don’t know that there’s a shelter that an undocumented person will necessarily go in and be comfortable.”

Portland’s Chief Resilience Officer, Jonna Papaefthmou, told KOIN 6 News “we will come out with a report that reflects the information we shared with the community, so they have it documented and also reflects that we’ve learned from the community, from their needs and request.”

The resiliency officer noted they will use the information to inform all emergency response work across the city.

The city told KOIN 6 News they plan to host a similar event with community members as summer approaches. Other non-profit leaders say they hope to see the city turn the discussions into action.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misspelled Rosaline Jinedri Yunusa Vakkai’s last name. The story has been updated with the correct spelling.