Freezing temperature claims life of Portland homeless man

Portland homeless man dies of hypothermia

PORTLAND, Ore. – A 51-year-old homeless man died of hypothermia after he was exposed to the freezing temperatures in East Portland Monday night.

Portland police officers checked on the man, who was lying on a pillow with a blanket over his body in front of a business on East Burnside Street, and discovered he was dead just before 8 p.m. He had been dead for several hours, police said.

The man was later identified as Mark Elliot Johnson. His last known address was in Hillsboro, according to police.

The State Medical Examiner said Johnson died of hypothermia.

"This is a tragedy. Nobody should freeze to death on the streets of our city," said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Portland police say they will be looking for vulnerable people during the expected freezing temperatures this week, and taking them to warming centers.

"If you see somebody who's visibly in distress, please, take the time to call 911," Wheeler said. "You're not bothering anybody. and second of all, if you need access to an emergency shelter, we've got space. Please call 211." 

KGW Weather Forecast

Police ask anyone who sees someone whose life appears to be in danger or is in a medical crisis to call 911. Anyone who is concerned about a person in potential danger due to the cold weather can call the police non-emergency line at 503-823-3333 and request that police check on that person.

Resources to stay warm

Warming centers are open in Portland and Gresham with capacity during day and night. Call 211 in Multnomah County at any hour for the latest information about open shelters. Calls are answered in over 150 languages. You can also visit 211's website for updated information and sign up for emails or texts about updated warming center locations. Severe weather centers will accommodate individuals and couples, pets and belongings, and do not require identification or any other documentation. Families with children seeking shelter should also call 211 and will be directed to a shelter that can accommodate children.

People seeking to get warm, especially during daytime hours, are encouraged to utilize public buildings that are open to the public, including, for example, libraries and community centers. Library hours are listed on Multnomah County Library's website. City community center information is listed here.

During extreme cold weather there is increased risk of exposure-related injuries for unsheltered homeless people who do not have sufficient gear, such as coats, hats, gloves, footwear, tarps, sleeping bags and blankets. For information about what and where to donate, please contact 211 info by dialing 211 or by visiting their website.

For additional information on the dangers of cold including: hypothermia, carbon monoxide hazards and important information on the use of alternative sources of heat, click here.


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