Multnomah County's health department will distribute supplies and "share resources" over the weekend to unhoused residents, as temperatures are expected to reach the low 90s Saturday and Sunday.
The county stopped short of announcing any cooling centers set to open during the unseasonably warm weekend of May 13 and 14, noting forecasted temperatures have been lowered by the National Weather Service.
"For this reason we are continuing with outreach and support for some of our vulnerable populations as well as encouraging them to take advantage of cool spaces like our libraries that will be open. We do not anticipate opening additional spaces as the forecast has turned more favorable. If someone needs help finding a cool space, they can dial 2-1-1," Sarah Dean, a county health department spokesperson, said Friday, May 12.
Since Wednesday, the Joint Office of Homeless Services has coordinated with mutual aid groups, outreach teams and volunteers to distribute nearly 43,250 bottles of water, 4,400 packets of sunscreen, more than 3,000 electrolyte packs, 880 refillable water bottles and misting bottles, and 660 cooling towels to people living outside without shelter.
Portland's public swimming pools and splash pads haven't opened yet, but the county is advising residents to cool down in libraries, community centers and the Lloyd Center mall. The county also maintains a help for when it's hot information page.
In response to a deadly heat wave in June 2021 that killed 62 people, Multnomah County developed a findings and action report, to inform future responses to dangerous heat events. The report recommended strategies to help identify residents most at risk of hyperthermia and heatstroke, and ways to keep them safe at home, while collaborating with other agencies on focused outreach and response.
The result was the development of a Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI), which maps out areas of the city where residents are most at-risk of heat-related illness. The tool is now in use by Environmental Health Services staff.
“Heat can kill people outdoors and in their own homes. Tragically we learned that in the last few years,” Jessica Guernsey, director of the county's Public Health division, said in the announcement Friday. “This tool will help save lives and is an example of core public health work in Multnomah County.”