A security guard tries to roust campers Monday morning in Old Town.
A security guard tries to roust campers Monday morning in Old Town. Dirk Vanderhart

Last night was bitterly cold, and that weather pattern is expected to stick around. With the National Weather Service predicting freezing temperatures over the next two nights, the Portland-area's severe weather shelter
system kicked into gear last night—and might be open for days depending on the forecast.

Multnomah County officials opened up a severe weather shelter at Imago Dei, at 1302 SE Ankeny last night, and admitted roughly 35 people seeking refuge from the cold, according to Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services. County officials were still awaiting an updated forecast before deciding whether to reopen severe weather shelter space (which is in addition to winter shelters the county is already running). Here's a full list of available shelter space, kept by 211.info. Update: Officials are opening shelters in Southeast Portland and Gresham beginning at 8:30 pm tonight.

At the same time, an emergency warming shelter in the Montavilla neighborhood opened last night, and is planning to open its doors again at 7 pm. It's at Saint Peter and Paul Episcopal Church, 247 SE 82nd.

The Mercury recently explored the often-unsafe strategies the city's growing houseless community is forced to employ when temperatures dip. With recent high-profile fires, and four exposure deaths from last year's severe winter still lingering in the city's mind, officials are stressing they won't turn anyone away who wants respite during severe weather.

When skies are clear, the county characterizes "severe weather" as temperatures of 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below (or wind chills that reach that depth). Here's the response plan for severe weather that lasts for three days or less.

•The Joint Office’s contracted severe weather shelter provider, Transition Projects, initially opens one or more shelters, with hundreds of beds at the ready. Locations include Imago Dei in southeast Portland, the Bud Clark Commons in downtown Portland, and a shelter in Gresham. Shelters are low-barrier, with space for carts and bikes, and access for pets. Community partners may also open spaces if needed.

•The Joint Office works with 211Info, TriMet, outreach providers, first responders and taxi companies to coordinate transportation of people and supplies to warming centers, and also to distribute cold weather gear to those who choose not to come to shelter.

• Trained volunteers fill shifts at warming centers as needed.

• 211 serves as the information hub for shelter, transportation, gear and volunteer needs.

• The Joint Office convenes a daily call of first responders, outreach providers and shelter providers to monitor shelter capacity and assist in logistics coordination.

What can housed allies do to help? Donate. Here's a list of things advocates at JOIN and Transition Projects are most in need of:

● Thick socks
● Waterproof/resistant gloves or mittens (preferably dark colors/black)
● Waterproof/resistant winter coats (men’s and women’s sizes)
● Sleeping bags and warm blankets
● Waterproof/resistant hats (preferably dark colors/black)
● Knit hats (preferably dark colors/black)
● Tarps (preferably brown, dark colors)
● Hand warmers
● Rain ponchos

Even easier: Here's an Amazon wish list JOIN created. You can have purchases sent right to the organization's address: 1435 NE 81st Avenue, Suite 100, Portland, OR, 97213