Volunteers setting up at the Metro garage shelter.
Volunteers setting up at the Metro garage shelter. Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County

Multnomah County's three emergency homeless shelters will remain open a fifth and final night to respond to the weekend's historic winter storm.

The unprecedented weather has called for an unprecedented response from the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), the agency that oversees homeless programs for Portland and Multnomah County. JOHS usually opens up severe weather emergency shelters in churches, community centers, and other public buildings when temperatures drop below freezing. This year, limited to spaces that allow for social distancing, the agency opened the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) on NE Martin Luther King Jr., the Metro Regional Government's NE Irving garage, and a former Rite Aide on N Lombard to serve as temporary shelters. The three spaces have offered a warm place to sleep for nearly 400 people each night since snow began to fall in Portland. Visitors are also offered warm clothing, meals, first aid, and, at the 200+ bed OCC, a COVID-19 test.

JOHS has also opened two 24/7 temporary shelters for people who don't need a place to sleep, but would like to warm up and pick up camping gear, warm clothes, and other supplies. One of these warming spaces is at the Metro garage and another is located within the Sunrise Center in the east side's Rockwood Neighborhood.

Anyone needing a warm place to stay tonight can call 2-1-1 or go to the 211 website to find out which shelter can accommodate them (and their pet, if needed!) and schedule a ride.

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The unusually long cold snap requires extra assistance from the public to keep the shelters open: JOHS put out a call Monday afternoon for more volunteers to help staff and manage the shelters and warming spaces this evening. Those interested and able to pitch in can learn more at this link.

According to a press release from JOHS, the extra shelters will shut down Tuesday morning, when temperatures are expected to rise.

A reminder: The weather will remain chilly and wet throughout the week—and season—continuing to make life outside challenging. Portlanders can help people living outside by donating camping gear, warm clothing, toiletries, and other survival gear to various social service organizations, listed by need here.