Portland is trying something different to help houseless people this winter.
The city and Multnomah County are opening a newly acquired store in Arbor Lodge as a winter shelter. The acquisition marks the first time the local governments have paired traditional indoor sleeping spaces with outdoor heated sleeping pods. The outdoor pods stand in the parking lot, pushing the number of beds, up to 70.
Andrea Matthews, the board chair of the Arbor Lodge Neighborhood Association, said locals aren’t having the traditional ‘not in my backyard’ reaction.
“Actually people want to be involved,” she said.
“What I’ve really heard is: ‘Why aren’t you involving us more? We aren’t you asking us for donations? We want to help. We want to be there. We want to be on site with y’all, and make this thing work.’”
Authorities said this year they’ll have as many as five locations open on nights when it snows, rains heavily or the temperature drops below 25 degrees. That means there will be enough shelter for close to 2,300 Portlanders, with room for hundreds more if needed.
Multnomah County chair, Deborah Kafoury, said for years they’ve provided extra shelter beds in the winter, “But on the coldest and most harrowing nights...we open up extra locations to ensure that everyone has access to a ‘no-turn-away’ shelter.”
“We also work to make sure that anyone who needs transportation to that shelter, can get a ride,” said Kafoury.
The city of Portland said the pool of on-call workers will also be larger this year, thanks to closer collaboration between the city and county emergency management teams, nonprofit partners, the Oregon Department of Human Services, and Portland’s Neighborhood Emergency Team volunteers.
Still, authorities are asking Oregonians to donate to homeless charities now, rather than waiting for the cold weather.
Marc Jolin with the city of Portland said donating now means authorities can be organized when bad weather hits.
“As we go into the winter months, what people need is the gear to survive the wet and the cold. So, think about jackets and hats and gloves and tarps, sleeping bags. Those kinds of things,” Jolin said.
Those looking for shelter or who are anxious to help are being asked to call 2-1-1 or go to 211info.org.
During severe weather, 211info operates 24 hours a day in Multnomah County.
Severe weather shelters include: The Portland Building downtown (70 beds), Imago Dei Church in Portland’s central eastside (50 beds), the Salvation Army’s Moore Street Corps & Community Center in North Portland (50 beds), the Sunrise Center in Gresham (45 beds) and Mt. Scott Community Center in Southeast Portland (30 beds).
Seasonal shelters, which are open for longer periods of time, include: Walnut Park Shelter, 5329 N.E. Martin Luther King Blvd. with 80 beds; Downtown Winter Shelter at 550 N.W. 6th Ave. with 96 beds; and Arbor Lodge Winter Shelter at 1952 N. Lombard Ave. with 70 beds.