Frigid temperatures prompt mayor to open Portland Building as emergency shelter
The shelter will open at least one night while cold weather continues and area warming centers and shelters hit capacity.
Following the first homeless death by hypothermia since 2011 on Monday night and ongoing frigid temperatures, Mayor Ted Wheeler has announced the Portland Building, 1120 S.W. Fifth Ave., will serve as a emergency shelter Wednesday, Jan. 4.
It will open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 5. But due to extreme weather, it possibly will be open Thursday and Friday nights as well.
"The city and county are committed to not turning anybody away from shelter during the severe weather warning," Wheeler said in a press release. "The system's capacity needs to expand as the cold weather continues. The Portland Building is a good option to increase that capacity."
Transition Project Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates several shelters in the Portland metro area, will help staff the facility along with city of Portland staff. Staff with the city will be paid for their time.
"It's good news that additional space has opened up … because it has been a really tough and really unusual week," says George Devendorf, executive director of Transition Projects.
He said on Tuesday night shelters were over capacity and that they can expect the same to continue through Thursday night and Friday night, possibly Saturday as well.
He said between Transition Project's two emergency shelters, Imago Dei, 1302 S.E. Ankeny St., and the Emergency Shelter at Bud Clark Commons, 650 N.W. Irving St., 264 people sought shelter, and that was an "all time high or close to it."
Due to crowding, the SOS shelter and Peace 2, which both generally operate overnight only, are operating 24 hours a day. A temporary place for homeless to sleep has also opened again in the Multnomah County East government building in Gresham.
In total, Portland has opened more than 450 beds during this week's cold snap, with a total of 1,600 beds.
Anyone seeking shelter should call 211. Find a list of all shelters, their addresses and hours of operation at www.211info.org and by texting "pdxshelter" to 898211.
Shelters are also in need of donations of warm clothes and blankets. For information about donating, visit www.211info.org/donations.