Multnomah County will close its emergency warming shelters in the Portland area Thursday, citing slightly warmer than expected temperatures.
The facilities will shut at 2 p.m. and the roughly 550 people that stayed in the shelters Wednesday night will need to find somewhere else to sleep. The county said guests will be given TriMet passes and cold-weather supplies, such as tents, sleeping bags and gloves.
The county’s cold weather advisory states that the county is closing because the “severe weather thresholds” are “not quite met.”
Weather is still expected to be frigid Thursday evening and early Friday morning. Forecasts from the National Weather Service show the temperature hovering around freezing from midnight through Friday morning. Rain is forecast in the early evening.
Marc Jolin, head of Portland and Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services, said his office is constantly evaluating the weather during the winter to see if conditions meet their threshold for opening emergency shelters. The county will open severe weather shelters if any of the following conditions are met: Temperatures forecasted at or below 25 degrees; there’s an inch or more of snow; or temperatures drop below 32 degrees with an inch of “driving rain.” The county said it will also open shelters for other conditions, such as severe wind chills or dramatic changes in temperature.
“Those thresholds have been worked out over time to try to identify when we see the highest amount of risk,” Jolin said. “This commitment to opening shelter and continuing to open more and more shelters for as long as necessary is not something that we can do all winter long. We just don’t have the capacity in the system for that.”
The county had opened five emergency shelters on Christmas and added more shelters later in the week. Some of the shelters were filled to capacity.
Jolin asked people to be on the lookout in the coming days for people sleeping outside who may be in need of help or in a life-threatening situation. People can call 211 for shelter options or request a welfare check at 503-823-3333.
“We’ll do everything we can to find capacity for them because it is going to continue to be very cold,” he said.
County leaders said it’s possible they will reopen the emergency shelters in the next few days if any of the severe weather conditions are met. This could happen as soon as Friday. Forecasters are predicting a low temperature on New Year’s Eve of 25 degrees.
Jolin said city and county leaders will meet to look at the forecast early Friday morning to determine whether the thresholds to re-open the shelters have been met. People who signed up to volunteer on Friday night and over the week should remain on standby.