PORTLAND, Ore. — It’s hard enough living on the streets, but pair that with 100-degree weather and no place to escape. That’s what many people experiencing homelessness are facing in downtown Portland.
"It’s pretty hot sometimes," said Jeremy Ekenstam, who’s 22 years old and has lived on the streets for the past two years.
"I’m on my feet all the time, so I’ll go from one area to another to another," he said while standing by a line of tents in Old Town on Tuesday. "I use the water fountains that are on some of the corners. I’ll just get a water bottle and pour it on my head, and I’ll drink some of it."
Clean Start members could also be seen making their way along the streets in Old Town on Tuesday, riding bikes and handing out bottled water to residents experiencing homelessness.
"Seeing people laying on the sidewalk, not knowing if they’re breathing or not, so I take the initiative to get off my bike and walk up to them and ask them if they need water," said Clean Start member Larry Hall.
Over on Powell Boulevard, Micheal Moratti worked on his car Tuesday afternoon.
"I was going to give it a tune up change the oil but I’m going to wait until tomorrow because it so freaking hot today," he said.
Moratti lives in his car, and he said the the air conditioner broke the night before, right as Portland was heading into the worst of this week's heat wave.
"Pain in the butt is what it is," he said. "It's extremely uncomfortable."
Another resident, Jeremy Grandy, pulled up and parked his car behind Moratti's. Grandy said he also sleeps in his car, and luckily his AC was working.
"It’s rough, tiring, exhausting, but you know, we manag," he said. "For people that don’t have AC it must suck."
Starting Tuesday at 2 p.m., Multnomah County and the City of Portland, along with community partners at Do Good Multnomah and Cultivate Initiatives, will open four overnight cooling shelters and one daytime cooling center.
Additional shelters will open as needed so no one is turned away, but several people on the streets said they had other plans for how to escape the heat.
"I was going to go to the river after this," Moratti said.
"Park in the shade, drink a lot of liquid, and go to the river," Grandy added.
TriMet buses and MAX trains won’t turn away anyone who can’t afford to pay the fare this week if they’re trying to get somewhere cooler. The agency asks riders to just let drivers know if they're on their way to a cooling center.