Warming Shelters and Homelessness

Updated 10:03 a.m. Saturday, March 14: Cold weather advisory in effect tonight; thresholds won't be met for severe weather.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services has reviewed the weather forecast, and while “severe weather” thresholds will not be met, forecast overnight temperatures will still trigger a cold weather advisory in Multnomah County the night of Saturday, March 14.

Severe weather shelter beds aren't set to open.

But the Joint Office has contracted outreach providers heading out and find vulnerable people and distribute life-saving gear to those who may not be fully prepared for cold conditions. 

Providers and the Joint Office are also asking for community donations of winter gear.

Items especially important to donate items including waterproof hats, gloves, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags and coats.

Many people have stepped up so far this season, but more is always needed. Night after night, outreach workers have been handing out gear to keep people warm and safe as soon as it's come in.

Please visit 211info.org/donations to see a specific list of winter gear and where it can be dropped off.

Providers also have online shopping lists at 211info.org/donations to make donating more convenient, which means anyone can donate at any time.

JOIN, 1435 NE 81st Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97213, is taking donations in person at that address. Transition Projects, at 665 NW Hoyt in downtown Portland, is also accepting in-person donations 24/7. Both agencies will bundle and share those items with other providers as needed.

Joint Office staff will be on-duty 24 hours to coordinate. Staff will continue to monitor forecasts and escalate the response to weather conditions as needed

When It's Cold Outside

If someone outside is unsheltered and you are concerned they could be in danger due to cold weather, call 9-1-1 and request a welfare check. To help someone locate shelter and for transportation to shelter, please call 2-1-1 or go online at 211info.org. During nights when severe weather has been declared, no one seeking shelter will be turned away.

On nights when severe weather is declared, the Joint Office of Homeless Services will fund roughly 2,000 beds of shelter (1,400-plus year-round beds, 225 all-winter beds and 325 severe-weather-only beds), with more added as weather and conditions dictate.  

People seeking to get warm on winter days when warming shelters are not open are welcome in government buildings that are open to the public, including, for example, libraries and community centers. Library hours are listed on Multnomah County Library’s website. City community center information is listed here.

How to Help Neighbors in Distress

If you see someone outside unsheltered whose life appears to be in danger or is in an apparent medical crisis, call 911. Otherwise, if you see someone about whom you are concerned, such as not being dressed for the weather conditions, call police non-emergency (503) 823-3333 and request a welfare check for that person.

To help someone find shelter and arrange transportation to shelter, please call 211.

Multnomah County offers mental health crisis resources, at any hour, for anyone experiencing a crisis. Mental health clinicians can provide direct phone assistance to individuals experiencing a mental-health crisis including: escalated symptoms of agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, dangerous to self or others, substance use, etc. Call (503) 988-4888 or visit the Multnomah County Mental Health Crisis Intervention website for more information.

Severe Weather Warming Centers

A Home for Everyone is a collaboration between Multnomah County and the City of Portland and other partners in the community. The partners, supported by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, operate shelters year-round for people experiencing homeless and add hundreds of beds open all winter. Beyond those year-round and seasonal beds, partners open additional warming shelters when severe weather hits to keep hundreds of people safe, generally 10 to 20 times each year.

Joint Office staff monitor weather conditions and open emergency warming centers as needed. Warming shelters may open when:

  • Temperatures are forecast at 25 degrees or below
  • Forecasters predict an inch or more of snow  
  • Overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees, with an inch of driving rain.
  • Other conditions occur as needed, including severe wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations

Transition Projects will open one or more shelters based on need and location. This year those sites are Bud Clark Commons, Imago Dei and the Sunrise Center. These are low-barrier shelters with access for bikes, carts and pets. Additional shelters would open if conditions worsen. 211info moves to 24-hour operations and shares information about shelter options and donation needs, and coordinates transportation to shelter during severe weather events. 

Donate the Right Winter Gear

Service providers and the Joint Office are asking for community donations of life-saving winter gear. Items especially important to donate items including waterproof hats, gloves, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags and coats. Those items, which are delivered regularly by outreach workers and volunteers across the community, help people during the day and on nights when thresholds for severe weather have not been met.

Please visit 211info.org/donations to see a specific list of winter gear and where it can be dropped off.

Providers also have online shopping lists to make also have online shopping lists to make donating more convenient, which means anyone can donate over the weekend, even if snow and ice have made roads difficult to traverse. Items ordered through JOIN's online shopping list can be delivered directly to JOIN's offices at 1435 NE 81st Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR, 97213. JOIN is also taking donations in person at that address.

Transition Projects also offers an online shopping list, too. Deliveries can be sent to 665 NW Hoyt in downtown Portland. Transition Projects is also accepting in-person donations 24/7 at that address, and will bundle and share those items with other providers as needed.

The following items are needed:

  • Thick socks
  • Waterproof/resistant gloves or mittens (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Waterproof/resistant winter coats (men’s and women’s sizes)
  • Sleeping bags and warm blankets
  • Waterproof/resistant hats (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Knit hats (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Tarps (preferably brown, dark colors)
  • Hand warmers
  • Rain ponchos

We appreciate everyone's willingness to help, however they can. But please keep in mind: Some items, like home-cooked food, present health challenges around illnesses, allergies and germs — even from the most well-meaning donors — and can’t be accepted. In addition, volunteers and others working at shelter sites won’t have the capacity to track, clean and return food containers, flatware and other items left at shelter sites.

Train as a Shelter Volunteer

Volunteers at a warming shelter at Bud Clark Commons in 2019.
Transition Projects is providing special 90-minute training sessions for adults 18 and older interested in volunteering at severe weather warming centers. Transition Projects opens and operates the first line of Severe Weather Shelter services (SWS) in Multnomah County, opening spaces at night and offering expanded day services during these events.

When severe weather occurs, we need you ready to help vulnerable people get inside and have a safe place to sleep. You may be asked to work alongside Transition Projects staff or alongside staff and volunteers at other shelters that open as need grows over the course of a long severe weather event.

What you need to know: Shelter volunteer shifts are about as hands-on as this work gets. You should be comfortable working together with people experiencing homelessness, and you should plan to be on your feet and doing active work during these shifts. These shifts take place on the coldest nights of the year, so having reliable transportation in inclement weather is important.

How to sign up: Go to www.signupgenius.com/go/508044bafa929a1f58-swsvolunteer to start the process to attend a mandatory training. Please note that you do not have to have attended a Transition Projects volunteer orientation to sign up for this training. Trainings provide an overview of what severe weather shelters are and why we do them; a brief run-through on what to expect, roles, and policies; and some basic de-escalation skills. 

Seasonal Shelters

In addition to the severe-weather beds that open only when certain weather thresholds are met, the Joint Office of Homeless Services also opens more than 200 beds of seasonal shelter beds every fall, winter and spring. These beds are open night after night, no matter the forecast, from November/December through April. To make this work possible, the Joint Office works closely with business and faith leaders who donate space, as well as experienced shelter operators, including Transition Projects and Do Good Multnomah. Other community partners not funded through the Joint Office also add winter shelter capacity.

Just like with year-round shelters, winter shelters are available only through reservations. Anyone interested in accessing shelter should contact 211.

Winter shelters for 2019-20 will open in November, with one exception: Last year's Walnut Park Shelter, which opened as a winter space, has remained open all year to continue providing night-time capacity for women and people in couples. That shelter will continue to serve as winter space this year. 

  • Walnut Park Shelter, 5329 N.E. Martin Luther King Blvd.; 80 beds, operated by Transition Projects 
  • North Portland Winter Shelter (Portsmouth Union Church), 4775 N. Lombard St.; 60 beds, operated by Do Good Multnomah
  • 5th Avenue Shelter (Mead Building basement), 421 S.W. 5th Ave.; 75 beds, operated by Transition Projects
  • Additional winter-only beds (10) will also be available in the Joint Office's youth system.
  • For families, the Joint Office is investing in additional outreach and rent assistance to help proactively house unsheltered families this winter. 

Cold Weather Alerts

Even when severe weather thresholds aren't met — but when overnight temperatures are forecast at 32 degrees or below, for roughly four hours or longer — the Joint Office will issue a "cold weather alert."

No severe weather beds will open during a cold weather alert. But providers will conduct additional and focused outreach to find vulnerable people, and they will have the ability to quickly obtain and distribute cold weather gear. Providers will step up coordination around information on resources and system shelter capacity. Overflow shelter capacity will be made available to outreach workers, who can refer people in need.