From the archives: Joint Office opens supply center to outreach teams, community groups to help share water during latest heatwave

August 11, 2021

Water at the JOHS' supply center awaits pickup by outreach teams on Friday, June 25.
For the third time this summer, the Joint Office of Homeless Services is answering extreme heat by sharing thousands of bottles of water and other cooling items through its downtown Portland supply center — while coordinating with outreach workers, community volunteers and mutual aid groups to ensure those supplies reach unsheltered neighbors across Multnomah County.

And at a time when an algae bloom has made water from the Willamette River toxic for pets to drink or swim in, the Joint Office is focusing additional outreach work — bringing clean water and warnings about the river — to people camping on river banks, especially those who have pets. 

Through Saturday, Aug. 14, the Joint Office has activated the same comprehensive, countywide outreach response that successfully distributed more than 66,000 bottles of water during June’s historic heat disaster, and then an additional 28,320 bottles during a milder heatwave in July.

To help prepare for the dangerous temperatures arriving today, Aug. 11, the Joint Office has already this week supplied more than 7,000 bottles and 300 gallon jugs of water. 

Also starting today, Multnomah County and other partners, including the City of Portland, will open cooling centers and additional cooling spaces. Outreach teams are also providing people with information on how and where to access those spaces.

For the most up-to-date information on cooling centers and available places to go to find relief from the heat, visit the County’s Help for When it's Hot page and a map of cool spaces.

Make an appointment to pick up water to share

The Joint Office’s downtown outreach supply center at SW 5th and Washington will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day through Saturday, Aug. 14, for pickups of water and cooling supplies to distribute. 

People coming to pick up water and cooling supplies don’t need to be part of a registered nonprofit to make an appointment. Those kinds of basic survival supplies are always available to a wide variety of organizations.

Those who would like to help support their unsheltered neighbors, but who might not be able to be out in the heat distributing supplies, can help instead by dropping off donations of 24-pack cases of 16.9-ounce bottles of water at the Joint Office supply center at 501 SW Washington St.

Anyone interested in picking up supplies to distribute or dropping off supplies can contact Carol Bethard or Richard Gilliam at the Joint Office to make appointments. Email

Coordinated plan to cover all of Multnomah County

During the June heatwave, more than 66,000 bottles of water moved from the Joint Office’s supply center to more than 60 outreach teams, community groups and mutual aid organizations, along with more than 20 individuals who also came to pick up and distribute supplies.

In July, 78 organizations helped share more than 28,300 bottles and 460 gallon jugs of water. They also helped distribute electrolyte packets and cooling towels.

Those groups ranged from agencies funded by the Joint Office, including JOIN, Cascadia Behavioral Health and the Urban League of Portland, to providers such as Blanchet House and groups like Ground Score Association, Trash for Peace, Our Streets PDX, Defense Fund PDX, Hygiene 4 All, PPOP and others.

Working with those organizations, the Joint Office mapped the County into zones to ensure full coverage of the community. Outreach workers and volunteers then took those supplies to places like Delta Park, downtown Portland, Sellwood-Moreland and Gresham, and all points between and some beyond. 

That work is part of the Joint Office’s ongoing mission to provide street outreach supplies — and support outreach providers and community groups across the county — all year long and especially during emergencies.