Heating the Homeless 

Fish to Ask Council for Warming Center Cash

City Commissioner Nick Fish plans to ask city council this week for $200,000 from its emergency fund to open two new warming centers for Portland's most medically vulnerable homeless people.

The request, scheduled for this Wednesday, November 12, is part of Fish's work with the city's Bureau of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) to re-prioritize the provision of services like shelter beds and housing to those homeless people who are most medically vulnerable.

Last month, a weeklong survey of homeless people's medical needs found that 47 percent of Portland's homeless are likely to die over the next seven years if they remain outside.

The $200,000 for the warming centers will be matched by $100,000 of Multnomah County money. BHCD plans to place 50 of Portland's most medically vulnerable homeless people into emergency winter shelters, and ultimately, housing, by next June.

Liora Berry of BHCD has also already placed two people from the streets into Central City Concern's recuperation care program, which is usually reserved for those coming straight from the hospital. Berry aims to place more than a dozen in the program over the winter months.

"I think generally the council is understanding that we need to take some extra measures to preserve an economic safety net, especially in this downturn," says Fish's Chief of Staff, Sam Chase, who adds that "we can't ignore" those who are at risk of death.

"We've always focused our resources on those experiencing chronic homelessness," says BHCD Homeless Program Manager Sally Erickson. "But among that population are these people who are also experiencing very serious medical conditions and it's important that they are taken care of."

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