Union Gospel Mission prepares for extreme winter conditions

Portland shelters prepare for cold winter conditions

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Temperatures are dropping overnight in the greater Portland area which could be trouble for some who live outside.

Frigid nights are just another thing to deal with on the streets for Jeremiah Garrett.

“Well sometimes you don't sleep. You stay awake. And then you can sleep during the day or when you get upstairs,” he said. 

But the cold can turn deadly. Last winter, four homeless people froze to death around Portland in the first 10 days of January.

It’s why the Union Gospel mission is ready to open its emergency shelter when the temperature sinks to 32 degrees.

“We'll clear out the dining hall and put all the mats on the ground,” said communications director Stacy Kean.

There is room here for 60 people. She estimates there are 4,000 outside in the greater Portland area.

“Anytime it gets to freezing level, that is pretty dangerous for folks to be outside,” Kean said.

That’s one reason the organization's search and rescue SUV will be out five nights a week--looking for homeless who are in trouble.

Even though many members of the public have already donated blankets and sleeping bags, more are needed, according to Noah Howe who operates the SUV. 

“Yeah, they just don't last very long because they're facing the elements all the time. They may last for a few days or they'll get swept. And a lot times if they get swept their stuff gets taken or it’s left out in the rain,” he said. 

In the meantime, county and city leaders say they are ready for whatever winter brings.

“So the commitment, when we get into actual, severe weather is that no one will be turned away from shelter. So we're prepared to expand shelter bed capacity as high as we need to accommodate everybody who comes in,” said Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

To get more information on homeless issues go to www.211.org

© 2017 KGW-TV


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