Homeless and cold - 'I've been close to death a few times'

Helping the homeless in cold weather

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The city of Portland is once again opening the Portland Building Thursday and Friday night, as temperatures dip into the teens.

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office says with shelters at capacity, the Portland Building sheltered 38 people Wednesday night. More than 100 city employees were willing to help, too, although the Mayor’s office says only a handful were needed.

“We went to one of the other shelters, and they were full. They got a taxi for us, over to here, and gave us socks and food,” said Cameron Mortensen, who spent the night in the Portland Building.

Chuck Southworth is homeless, and says the bitter cold is almost too much to handle.

“It’s very difficult. It’s sad. I’m a big strong man, but a lot of times, I just want to cry,” he told KGW, emotionally. “I don’t know what else to do.”

His fingers are cracked from the cold, and his thin gloves don’t fit. He struggles to stay warm. “There’s a lot of people out here struggling. I’ve been close to death a few times. I’ve been that cold.”

Mark Melia lives in Southeast Portland, and sees people like Chuck suffering. “They are human beings, and they deserve compassion,” he said.

Melia started a GoFundMe page last month, to raise money to provide special emergency jackets for the homeless. The jackets he buys on Amazon are waterproof and wind proof. “The goal is to distribute as many as I can with the dream of 1,000, via direct distribution to people who are homeless, and to shelters around town,” Melia said.

He buys the jackets on Amazon, and also purchases fleece jackets, too. Thanks to his good work, he gets a discount.

GoFundMe Portland recognized his work, and donated $1,000 to his cause. Melia says he’s really never done anything like this before, but wants to make an impact.

“I met a young woman who was living on the streets very close to my home, and I was talking to her one day, and I just identified with her. She just seemed like it could have been me, or anyone at this point,” said Melia.

You can donate to his page, here.


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