NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County urgently recruiting volunteers as shelter response breaks records

January 15, 2024

NEWS RELEASE: Multnomah County urgently recruiting volunteers as shelter response breaks records

Multnomah County and partner organizations served 1,136 guests across shelters overnight

Multnomah County, Ore. (Jan. 15, 2024) — Warming shelters will remain open in Multnomah County through at least noon Tuesday, Jan. 16 as severe weather conditions persist across the region. With more inclement weather expected over the next 36 hours, volunteers are urgently needed to staff numerous sites.

The County has opened a record number of 24-hour warming shelters and served more people than it ever has during a cold weather emergency. Despite snow, high winds and frigid cold, difficult travel conditions, power outages, downed trees and other issues, Multnomah County and its partners, including the State of Oregon, Cultivate Initiatives, Do Good Multnomah, All Good Northwest and Transition Projects, served 1,136 guests overnight Sunday, Jan. 14.

Heading into Monday night, Jan. 15, the County will be providing over 1,000 beds. But keeping those shelters open requires community help. Anyone who is able and can travel to a shelter site safely is asked to volunteer for a shelter shift. Find all available shift opportunities and sign up online to support these life-saving resources. Please note that as of Sunday, Jan. 14, only the "Bloodborne Pathogens" course, which only takes 30 minutes, is required. 

The cold continues to drive high numbers of health issues. There were at least 24 emergency department visits reported Sunday, Jan. 14 for cold-related illnesses compared to two to three visits on a normal day. Visits related to carbon monoxide poisoning were also elevated on Sunday, Jan. 14. Sunday was the highest daily count for carbon monoxide poisoning illnesses since record-keeping began in 2016.

As of Monday, Jan. 15, the Medical Examiner reports at least two people have died from suspected hypothermia. The investigation to officially confirm hypothermia as the cause of death is ongoing; no other details are available at this time. Public health leaders are urging everyone to seek shelter and stay inside as much as possible and limit travel until conditions change. 

No one seeking shelter will be turned away. All sites welcome pets and are accessible to people with disabling conditions.

Free transportation to warming shelters is available by calling 2-1-1 or through TriMet but please be advised of TriMet disruptions. MAX light rail service remains suspended today. Riders should check and expect major delays. Those seeking a ride should try to wait in a warm place as long as possible. And 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.

These sites are open right now and will remain open through at least noon Tuesday, Jan. 16:

The following site will open at 5:30 p.m. but will close at 7 a.m. Tuesday to provide day services:

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

Warming shelter flyers are also available:

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. 15, 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 Tuesday, Jan. 16, will be shared Tuesday 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 12 severe weather shelter sites.

Over the last 24 hours, dispatchers at 211info temporarily housed at least 17 families and coordinated 153 ride requests for people seeking shelter.

Officials are planning for the days ahead, and 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 at and let the driver they are headed to a warm place.

All MAX service remains suspended until further notice due to impacts from the extreme weather. TriMet is providing shuttle buses where possible, but riders should expect long delays and use regular bus service or other transportation. Those who can avoid traveling at this time should do so. 


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.