NEWS RELEASE: Warming shelters to remain open overnight Tuesday; volunteers still needed to support life-saving work

January 16, 2024

Multnomah County, Ore. (Jan. 16, 2024) — Warming shelters will remain open in Multnomah County overnight Tuesday, Jan. 16, as the region prepares for freezing rain and continued cold temperatures. With more inclement weather expected, volunteers are urgently needed to staff numerous sites.

Chair Jessica Vega Pederson extended the state of emergency she first declared Jan. 12 to noon Wednesday, Jan. 17, to ensure warming shelters will remain open and transportation will be available, especially through TriMet.

The County has opened a record number of 24-hour warming shelters and served more people than ever during a cold weather emergency. Multnomah County and its partners, including the State of Oregon, Cultivate Initiatives, Do Good Multnomah, All Good Northwest and Transition Projects, served a record 1,181 guests overnight Monday, Jan. 15.

The County has opened 12 shelters — the most locations ever. But keeping more than 1,000 beds available in those shelters 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 only the "Bloodborne Pathogens" course, which takes just 30 minutes, is required. 

The cold continues to drive high numbers of health issues. There were at least 13 emergency department visits reported Monday, Jan. 15, for cold-related illnesses, compared to two to three visits on a normal day. Visits related to carbon monoxide poisoning continued to be elevated Monday.

As of Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Medical Examiner reports at least two people have died from suspected hypothermia. Investigations to officially confirm hypothermia as the cause of death are 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. Operations remain suspended for all MAX light rail lines except the Blue Line, which is currently operating. 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 will remain open through 8 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17:

The following site will reopen at 5:30 p.m. but will close at 7 a.m. Wednesday and then provide day services:

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

Warming shelter flyers are also available:

Warming Shelter Flyer - Jan. 16, 2024 (English) (432.49 KB)

Warming Shelter Flyer - Jan. 16, 2024 (Spanish) (433.16 KB)

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. 16, providers and nonprofits supporting an expansion of street outreach led by the Joint Office have been working to distribute 2,420 hand warming packs, 484 hoodies, 484 pairs of sweatpants, 2,420 ponchos, 1,452 warm hats, 1,596 pairs of warm gloves, 2,772 pairs of socks, 2,540 wool blankets, 2,178 tarps, 590 tents, 590 sleeping bags, 2,420 mylar blankets, and 43,752 water bottles.

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 sheltered at least six families and coordinated 140 ride requests for people seeking shelter.

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.

MAX service remains suspended on all lines except the Blue Line 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 the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 17. 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.