On a given winter night in Portland, approximately 1,000 shelter beds are available to community members experiencing homelessness. Beyond that capacity, the City of Portland and its partners activate a planned, coordinated response to severe weather events to expand overnight shelter and day services. That response was activated Monday, Feb. 3, and continued through this morning. Our partners and volunteers from Red Cross, JOIN, Transition Projects, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Salvation Army and Union Gospel Mission opened their facilities as 24-hour warming shelters. During this severe weather event, those partners provided overnight shelter to more than 350 additional people each night.
Portland Housing Bureau staff followed its severe weather standard operating procedure. Members of our homeless team were on 24-hour call shifts, actively assessing resource needs and coordinating responses with other City bureaus and our nonprofit partners. The team led a daily call with our partner service providers, Multnomah County and City bureaus of Emergency Management, Fire & Rescue and Police.
Outreach workers at JOIN actively searched for people still on the street, working 16-18 hours shifts since Monday. Outreach workers coordinated with 211Info, the communications lead for coordinating transportation to shelter. 211Info fielded thousands of calls from the public and assessed shelter capacity and available transportation. In addition to moving people into shelter in their large passenger vans, Portland Fire & Rescue also helped to secure kennels from Multnomah County Animal Control so shelters could accommodate both people and their pets. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office laundered more than 200 blankets for shelters.
Though this response to severe weather conditions is part of our annual planning, the frequency and duration of severe weather has strained volunteer capacity and left our providers depleted of cold weather supplies, such as coats, blankets, gloves, hats, blankets and tarps. Please visit 211Info to learn about donation sites and opportunities to get certified as a volunteer with the Red Cross.