From the archives: Cooling centers open to people, pets as region braces for record highs

June 25, 2021

Mohammad Bader, director of the Department of County Human Services, joined a team of County staff and community volunteers Friday at the Oregon Convention Center to haul in supplies, set up tables and roll out sleeping pads as the County prepared to open one of three cooling centers that will stay open 24 hours through what could be the hottest stretch the County has ever seen. Centers are located at:

Oregon Convention Center: 960 NE 1st Ave

Arbor Lodge Shelter:1952 N Lombard St

Sunrise Center18901 E Burnside St

Mia Edera, a cooling center coordinator, applied blue tape on the concrete floor to mark arrows pointing from a pair of hand sanitizer dispensers to a table laid out for snacks. Lee Girard, deputy director of County Human Services, unpacked oranges and bananas, put out granola bars and roasted peanuts, bottles of water and electrolyte packets.

The Center opened at 1 p.m. Friday to a line of people who got an early jump on the heatwave. Guests stopped for snacks, plugged phones into chargers, settled down in front of a TV, or chose spots to lie down. Bader pushed a cart down rows of sleeping mats, offering blankets to those who had stretched out for a rest.

A team from Public Health set up tables to offer COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We’re here to support people and make sure the vaccine is accessible,” said operations supervisor Ana Mendoza-Cruz. “There are so many obstacles in our daily lives, so we want to make it easier for people to get their vaccines.”

Alix Sanchez, a cooling center coordinator, greeted newcomers at the door and gave them a rundown of services available: charging stations, TV, snacks, bathrooms, and an outdoor smoking area.

“I like being in community, especially when the heat is so dangerous,” said Sanchez, manager of County Human Services’ Domestic and Sexual Violence Office. “I want to help people be in a space where they are safe and where they can be cool.”

The three cooling centers will remain open 24 hours a day, through Tuesday. Pets are welcome. People who need free transportation can dial 2-1-1.

Five County libraries, which are considered cooling spaces, will be open from noon until 8 p.m., Saturday through Monday. Pets are not allowed. Water will be available.