A woman was found dead this afternoon at Right 2 Dream Too—the rest area for the homeless at NW 4th and Burnside—possibly after overdosing on methadone and taking other medications for ailments including embolisms and congestive heart failure, according to her husband and other witnesses.
Emma Dreier, 45, was found unresponsive in the rest area's couple's tent around 3:30, after her husband, Don Perkins, 54, said he was unable to rouse her. They had walked over to Right 2 Dream Too around 1 pm from the Portland Rescue Mission. Perkins told me he could tell Dreier wasn't feeling well, possibly after overdosing on her medication, and that he turned to Right 2 Dream Too because he thought she needed a place to sleep.
"I wanted her to lay down," Perkins said. "She'd been taking other pills with her medication. She was addicted to opiates."
Dreier's death is the first at Right 2 Dream Too, which opened in October 2011, just shy of two and a half years ago. It has a steady contingent of 20 or so members who help run the site, but serves as a refuge for 70 to 80 overnight sleepers every day who come for 12-hour stints in a handful of common tents.
Members and others rushed to help Dreier, attempting CPR, until firefighters and paramedics showed up and tried to revive Dreier. Israel Bayer of Street Roots was the first to mention, via Twitter, that someone had died. Drugs and vice detectives followed rescuers to check whether Dreier had taken non-prescribed and/or illegal drugs. Forensics techs had also descended on the camp, but a medical examiner had yet to retrieve her body when I left a bit before 5.
Medical and police calls to Right 2 Dream Too have been decidedly rare, compared with traditional shelter providers in downtown—a finding in a Mercury story on dispatched 911 calls this winter. The Tribune also reported in January that 28 people had died at the $47 million Bud Clark Commons shelter and apartments through June of last year.
Perkins said he didn't mention that he thought Dreier had maybe taken too many pills when they came to Right 2 Dream Too and wasn't sure whether his wife had overdosed accidentally or on purpose. He also wasn't sure when she might have taken her medicine: "She didn't tell me. I just could tell by the way she was acting."
He said they've been married since November 11, 2001, and had been together in Portland since 2002. They've been homeless for the past two years. Dreier was struggling not only with her physical ailments and opiate addiction, but also her mental health, he said.
"She's tried to kill herself a number of times," via overdosing, he says. "They'd revive her and she'd go to Providence and they'd let her out and they didn't take it seriously."
Taking the pills, he said, was a way of coping. The heart failure, especially, he said, was bothering her. "It scared her."
Right 2 Dream Too has closed its tents for overnight sleepers for the time being. Eight other people in the common tents had to be woken up and moved out. Members were consoling one another on the sidewalk outside while the police and technicians did their work. It wasn't clear whether they'd reopen tonight, co-founder Ibrahim Mubarak says, pending a meeting with members and the completion of the police investigation.
Update 5:45 PM: Greg Margolis, a spokesman for Right 2 Dream Too, says the medical examiner has come and gone, and so have detectives and forensics technicians. That raises the chance the rest area will open as usual tonight; members had been expecting the authorities to linger for several hours longer.