NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County shelter response expands with four additional sites Jan. 13 amid life-threatening cold, snow

January 13, 2024

NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County shelter response expands with four additional sites Jan. 13 amid life-threatening cold, snow

Community volunteers needed; snow, dangerous cold, winds could linger for days 

Multnomah County, Ore. (Jan. 13, 2024) — Multnomah County shelters will remain open for a second day as the region experiences a stretch of dangerously cold temperatures, wind and snow. The County is also opening an additional four shelters tonight, bringing the total numbers of spaces to 10. 

As of this morning, nearly 350 people accessed shelter at the sites that opened on the first day of the County’s emergency shelter response. The total number of available beds starting tonight will be 740. 

Cold, wet and windy weather can be deadly for anyone spending a long time outdoors. Frostbite can happen in less than an hour when wind chills and temperatures are low enough. These life-threatening conditions led Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson to declare a state of emergency Friday, Jan. 12, through noon Tuesday, Jan. 16. 

The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Program this morning reported it is investigating one suspected hypothermia death. The person died Saturday, Jan. 13, in Portland. No other details are being released at this time. Confirming the cause of death will take several weeks to months of investigation.

Multnomah County warming shelters are seeking community volunteers immediately and in the coming days. Anyone is encouraged — especially people who have volunteered before and those with experience in human services and health-related settings — to join us. Find all available shift opportunities and sign up to help save lives online.

No one seeking shelter will be turned away. All sites will welcome pets and be accessible to people with disabling conditions. Free transportation to warming shelters will be available by calling 2-1-1 or through TriMet.

TriMet on Saturday, Jan. 12, announced they will not turn away anyone traveling to or from a warm place who is unable to pay fare into at least Tuesday, Jan. 16. Those seeking shelter should inform their transit operator they are heading to or from a warming shelter or space.

The County’s “Care for When It’s Cold” site at will post shelter hours, locations and any updates as conditions change. That page will also include information as it becomes available on how to support the sheltering effort.

The 10 sites available Saturday, Jan. 13, including expanded capacity at an existing year shelter, provide roughly 740 beds.

These sites are open right now and will remain open at least through 8 p.m Sunday, Jan. 14:

These sites will open 8 p.m. tonight, Saturday, and will remain open through at least 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14:

This interactive map shows places to get warm during the day. 

In addition, a recently opened overnight winter shelter at Portsmouth Union Church, funded by the Joint Office of Homeless Services and operated by All Good Northwest, has switched to 24-hour operations. The County’s Behavioral Health Resource Center has also added capacity.

As of Jan. 13, providers and nonprofits supporting an expansion of street outreach led by the Joint Office have been working to distribute 2,060 hand warming packs, 412 hoodies, 412 pairs of sweatpants, 2,060 ponchos, 1.236 warm hats, 1,380 pairs of warm gloves, 2,340 pairs of socks, 2,180 wool blankets, 1,818 tarps, 500 tents, 500 sleeping bags, 2,060 mylar blankets, and 36,960 water bottles.

Multnomah County will continue issuing a daily announcement to the public and media about continued severe weather operations for the duration of the emergency. A formal decision on continuing operations overnight Sunday, Jan. 14, will be shared Sunday morning.

Warming shelters and free transportation

County employees, along with State of Oregon employees, Do Good Multnomah, Cultivate Initiatives, Transition Projects, and All Good Northwest, are staffing the 10 severe weather shelter sites, which have a combined capacity of about roughly 740 beds.

As of early Saturday, Jan. 13, dispatchers at 211info fielded 450 calls and coordinated 140 ride requests for people seeking shelter.

Officials are planning for the days ahead, and even after Saturday’s expansion additional shelter sites are being prepared to open on additional nights as long as thresholds are met. For up-to-date information on which sites are open, visit the County’s Care for When It's Cold webpage.

People planning to use TriMet to get to a warming shelter should check for routes and let the driver they are headed to a warm place.

Please note that starting Sunday, Jan. 14, TriMet’s Gateway Transit Center will be closed to train service. MAX Blue, Green and Red lines will also be disrupted, due to construction on TriMet’s ongoing Better Red MAX Extension and Reliability Improvements Project.

Service on all Blue and Green MAX lines will be reduced and the Red line will not operate at all. Shuttle buses will serve stations between N.E. 7th Avenue and E. 102nd Avenue, Gateway Transit Center and Portland International Airport, and Gateway Transit Center and S.E. Main St. More information is at

Dress warmly and expect longer travel times as trips through the disrupted areas may take an extra 30 to 60 minutes, require transfers between buses and trains, and may lead to longer waits. Check for schedules and service alerts.

Thresholds for severe weather shelter and other preparations

This year, Multnomah County officials — in consultation with County Emergency Management, the Health Department, County Human Services, the Joint Office and National Weather Service experts — are charged with determining when conditions are met to open severe weather shelters.

The thresholds the County uses were first developed and used by the City of Portland, before the Joint Office was created, when the City served as the lead agency providing severe weather shelter for adults experiencing homelessness.

Severe weather shelters open as needed when any of the following thresholds are met for any one of the conditions below that are forecasted to persist for four (4) hours or more between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.:

  • Forecasted temperature of 25° F or below.
  • Forecasted snow accumulation of 1 inch or more over a 24-hour period.
  • Forecasted temperature at or below 32° F (0° C) with 1 inch or more of rain.

A fourth threshold was added by County leadership this year:

  • The County's Chief Operating Officer or their designee may consider other conditions or circumstances during a severe weather event that could increase the risk to the community and activate elements included in this standard operating procedure.

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

This advisory triggers expanded outreach to deliver cold-weather gear; providers also share information on resources and system shelter capacity. Overflow shelter capacity is made available to outreach workers, who can refer people in need.

The County began severe weather operations Tuesday, Jan. 9, when the Joint Office expanded outreach to people experiencing homelessness, with scores of partners distributing cold-weather gear to people camping in all parts of the County. 

The Department of County Human Services also prepared in advance, reaching out to older adults and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That work includes:

  • Direct outreach to vulnerable clients in partnership with community-based organizations.
  • Service and resource connection with houseless community members. 
  • Contingency plans in case of power outages or other matters impacting most vulnerable clients.

Multnomah County Transportation’s Road Maintenance Division will remain in 24-hour operations through 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15. The County largely serves rural roads and some arterials. Learn more about the County’s snow and ice plan here.

Support people living outside and welfare checks

If you see someone about whom you are concerned during cold weather, such as an individual who is not dressed warmly enough for the weather conditions, call the City of Portland’s non-emergency response line at 503-823-3333 and request a welfare check.

If someone outside is unsheltered and their life appears to be in danger, call 9-1-1. 

Winter weather is especially dangerous for anyone experiencing houselessness, and can also pose a greater risk for older adults and people with disabilities.

Stay informed and check on neighbors

Emergency managers and the Multnomah County Health Officer are advising all community members to get ready. Check on your neighbors: Please knock on the door, make the call, let people know if you’re going to the store and ask how you might help.

Care for When It’s Cold: Up-to-date information from Multnomah County on shelters, safety and support. Up-to-date info on weather conditions, available resources, where to find the nearest available shelter and transportation options. You can also find out where you can donate winter weather items to those who need them. Sign up for Severe Winter Weather alerts via email or text by going to 211info’s sign-up page.

National Weather Service: Check weather warnings in the Portland Metro area.

Public Alerts: Sign up to get emergency alerts about safety concerns in your area.

TriMet Alerts: Check for winter weather advisories.

ODOT TripCheck: The Oregon Department of Transportation TripCheck site updates Oregon road conditions and streams live roadside video.