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Amidst Portland Snowstorm, Some People Refuse Offers Of Warm Shelter


Tents gather snow during a winter storm on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Of five occupants interviewed, none knew the location of warming shelters, and only one expressed interest in going.

Tents gather snow during a winter storm on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Of five occupants interviewed, none knew the location of warming shelters, and only one expressed interest in going.

John Rosman/OPB

Portland police said they were very busy Tuesday night dealing with stranded motorists as 10-12 inches of snow swept across the region.

But officers also spent a significant amount of time reaching out to people who declined to stay indoors during the record snowfall.

Sgt. Christopher Burley said officers conducted a number of welfare checks throughout the night.

“There were six people transported to warming shelters in Central Precinct last night. They had 26 people refuse a ride to a warming shelter,” he said. “We provided four persons with jackets.”

Jessica Morkert with Multnomah County said she had heard of one police officer who checked in on a woman every 30 minutes after she declined to stay in a shelter.

“There are definitely some folks who are deciding not to come into shelter,” said Tony Bernal, senior director of public policy and funding for Transition Projects. 

Transition Projects is the largest provider of shelter space in Multnomah County.

“Whenever outreach teams can, they’re giving [people without housing] gear to help them be equipped,” Bernal said. 

In total, 422 people went to shelters Tuesday night, according to Bernal. No one was turned away, but the county is looking to open even more beds for Wednesday night, as more snow continues to fall in the region.

Bernal said his agency is looking for donated tarps, sleeping bags, blankets, gloves and hats. People can call 211 to find their nearest shelter.

So far in 2017, at least four people have died of hypothermia while staying on Portland streets, including one woman who struggled with mental illness and declined services.

 

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