Providers prepare to help the homeless during the anticipated severe weather

Rose Bak

The Portland metro area may experience up to a week of life-threatening weather for those living outside.
Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

The National Weather Service is increasingly confident that the State of Oregon, including the Portland metro area, will enter into a sustained period of severe weather beginning the evening of December 25th.

Forecast models are predicting temperatures in the teens and lower twenties plus several snow showers that may hit the region anywhere between Saturday and the following Thursday. Snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures will create dangerous conditions for people experiencing homelessness. Preparations are underway to help keep the homeless safe during the anticipated winter storms.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and JOHS Director Marc Jolin tour winter shelter.Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

In addition to its year-round shelters, Multnomah County opened seasonal inter shelters last month. As the weather worsens, additional shelter beds will open. In Multnomah County, leaders have confirmed that there will be no turn away from shelters during severe weather, meaning that everyone who wants to come indoors and access shelter will be able to. County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced:

“Last winter was tremendously difficult, with the pandemic threatening our ability to offer no-turn-away shelter. But we managed it thanks to a huge lift from the community, and partners like Metro. This year, thanks to vaccines, months of planning, and a network of partners, there’s no uncertainty: We will be able to offer no-turn-away shelter to anyone who needs a safe, dry, warm place to spend the night during the coldest, most dangerous nights.”

Here's what you need to know about winter shelters and how you can help the homeless during bad weather.

Winter shelters will open around the metro area in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties as conditions worsen.

Although Multnomah County hosts the bulk of shelter options, neighboring counties are also gearing up to support the homeless. 211info maintains a list of open available shelter beds and other severe weather information here. To access a shelter bed, people must call 211info to be directed to a shelter where space is available. Be aware that 211info will likely have long hold times during severe weather.

You can also get more information here:
Photo courtesy of Tri-Met

Transportation is available to shelters.

When severe weather happens, 211info can assist people who are homeless in getting rides to shelter. Tri-Met will generally offer free rides to shelters during bad weather, and outreach teams will provide bus tickets as well.
Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

Outreach teams are out right now trying to help.

Homeless outreach teams are canvassing the region and will continue to do so as long as the weather allows. Outreach teams are handing out cold-weather gear like sleeping bags, tents, hand warmers, and clothes as well as distributing information about severe weather shelters. Outreach teams are also encouraging homeless residents to take advantage of shelters.

If you see someone in severe weather and are concerned for their safety you can call 211info to ask for outreach teams to check on them. If they appear to be having a medical emergency please call 911.
Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

Severe weather shelters are "low barrier".

People do not have to be "clean" or participate in any services to access shelters during severe weather. Shelters are open to all and people can bring their partners and pets.
Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

Donations are welcome.

Local homeless service agencies are seeking donations of appropriate weather gear and supplies Visit the 211info website to learn what's needed and how to donate.
Photo courtesy of Multnomah County

Shelter volunteers are needed.

With thousands of people living on Portland's streets, it takes a concerted effort to open severe weather shelters and keep people safe. Adults are encouraged to volunteer at a shelter near them. All volunteers are paired with professional staff and provided training and safety information. Click here for information.

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR

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