Oregon volunteers are scrambling to hand out water to homeless people in Portland’s isolated encampments as thesweats through a heatwave gripping the typically temperate region.
By GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press
August 13, 2021, 4:36 a.m.
• 4 min read
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon volunteers scrambled to hand out water, portable fans, popsicles, and information about cooling shelters to homeless people living in isolated encampments on the outskirts of Portland as thesweated through another heatwave. In an area more used to temperate weather, authorities try relieving the vulnerable, including low-income older people and those . They are mindful of a record-shattering heat wave in late June that killed hundreds in Oregon, Washington, and when the thermometer went as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 Celsius).
In Portland, temperatures reached 102 F (39 C) by late afternoon Thursday, and more heat was River on the city’s eastern outskirts.. It was hotter than Phoenix, where the desert a below-normal 100 F (38 C). In Seattle, highs were in the 90s in a region where many don’t have air conditioning. In Bellingham, Washington, the high hit 100 F (38 C) for the first . In Portland, a nonprofit group serving people experiencing homelessness and those with mental illness used three large vans to transport water and other cooling items to homeless encampments along the Columbia
The effort was necessary because people experiencing homelessness are often reluctant to go to cooling centers, said Kim James, director of homeless and housing support for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare. Scott Zalitis, who was shirtless in the heat, ate lime-green popsicles handed out by the group and told volunteers that the temperature at his campsite reached 105 F (41 C) the before. A giant cooler full of food spoiled when all the ice melted, and he couldn’t find any more to buy.
“It’s miserable. I can’t handle the heat, no matter what. So, I mean, it’s hard to stand. Even in the shade, it’s too hot,” said Zalitis, who became homeless last year when the apartment where he subleased a room burned down in an electrical fire. “You want to stay somewhere cool, as cool as possible.” The encampment, where rusted-out cars and broken-down RVs mixed with tents and piles of garbage, was in sharp contrast to downtown Portland, where sweaty pedestrians fountain in a riverfront park.
Luna Abadia, 17, was out training with her ccross-countryteam from Lincoln High declared a state of emergency and activated an emergency operations center, citing potential disruptions to the power grid and transportation. City and county governments have opened cooling centers, extended public library hours, and waived bus fares for those headed to cooling centers. A 24-hour statewide helpline will direct callers to the nearest cooling shelter and offer safety tips.stopped for a few minutes at the fountain. The at 4 p.m., but in recent weeks, they have had to shift it to 8 a.m. — and it’s still oppressively hot, she said. “It was very hot, lots of sweat. That’s something we’ve noticed in the past week or so,” Abadia said. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has
Intense heatwaves and historic drought in the American West reflect change is everything I’ve been thinking about for the past weeks, “she sai. Heat wave and the wildfires we faced here a year ago — and even now around the world — have reen a new reminder of what we’re facing and the immediate action that needs to be taken.” at http://www.twitter.com/gflaccus., making weather more extreme. Abadia said change that she has noticed in her life prompted her to start a youth-run organization to get more young people involved. “Clim. e