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Jan-20-2008 16:59printcomments

Red Cross Warming Centers Open Tonight, Volunteers Needed

The Red Cross needs volunteer assistance to operate these vital centers.

Red Cross Warming Shelter in Portland, Oregon
Red Cross Warming Shelter in Portland, Oregon
Photo courtesy: Lise Harvin/Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - With the coldest temperatures in years headed our way, the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross is prepared to open emergency warming centers for the homeless tonight. These are places people can go when they have no other options for staying warm, which can mean staying alive.

Red Cross Spokesperson Lise Harwin says the shelters are necessary and important when it comes to helping people with few other places to turn.

"These safe havens will protect this vulnerable population from hypothermia, frostbite and, in some cases, even death."


While the City of Portland has only asked the Red Cross to open warming centers tonight, with the current weather outlook, Harwin says it is likely that the centers may need to be open for several days.

"For this reason, volunteer assistance is vital," she said.

Those interested in staffing the Red Cross emergency warming centers should contact Mike Fish at 503-528-5699 or

Harwin says that with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday upon us, "volunteering is a great way to make it a day on, not a day off."

Three centers in the Portland area are expected to open tonight:

* Estate Hotel, 225 NW Couch – 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

* Cavalry Christian Ministries, 126 NE Alberta – 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

* Foursquare Church, 1303 SE Ankeny – 8:00 PM to 7:00 AM.

Harwin says Red Cross emergency warming centers differ from other homeless shelters in several ways. Guests do not have to register to enter, singles, couples and families are all welcome, guests can come and go as they please throughout the night and pets are welcome and kennels and dog food are provided.

"As a center fills, the Red Cross offers transportation to one of the other two locations. Guests will be provided with a bus ticket to be able to return in the morning," she said.

While the emergency warming centers will provide respite from the cold, a place to sleep, hot coffee and soup, they differ from traditional Red Cross shelters in that clothing and financial support are not be available.

Warming centers also differ in that they allow pets, which Harwin says is typically not the practice in Red Cross shelters.

The Red Cross anticipates opening warming centers anywhere from ten to 20 times each winter and serving anywhere from 150 to 200 people each night that the centers are open. When the centers last opened on Thursday, January 17th, the three sites were able to accommodate 126 total guests.

City decision

The City of Portland makes the decision to activate the Oregon Trail Chapter when they believe conditions require warming center openings. When conditions are dry, the centers will open when temperatures reach 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including consideration of the wind chill factor.

Under wet conditions, the centers will open when temperatures drop to 35 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including consideration of the wind chill factor and any snow/freezing rain/sleet. They will also open if there is 1" or more of rain within 12 hours.

Harwin says other combinations of weather conditions that place homeless persons at risk of loss of life or serious negative health consequences.

Local Oregon Trail Chapter volunteers respond to residential fires and other disasters an average of every 40 hours. All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from Oregonians. Financial gifts help provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling and other immediate assistance to those in need. Call (503) 284-1234 or visit

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It's True January 23, 2008 9:24 pm (Pacific time)

Anon. What makes you think that they never paid taxes? You can pay your whole life and fall on hard times. Furthermore many of these people have mental illnesses that are not visible. By the way, what is "Normal"? Did you ever hear of the working poor? Did you ever hear of disability? You should be thankful that you can function and should learn to put yourself in the shoes of others. Yell at the people that lost all of their retirement money at Enron. Put yourself in an old body and mind and see how much energy you have.

Anonymous January 22, 2008 1:59 am (Pacific time)

How about getting these people off the streets for good? Get them off the alcohol, drugs, get them jobs and make them pay taxes. Then get an apartment and live like a normal person. No pity from me, sorry.

It's True January 20, 2008 7:58 pm (Pacific time)

I can not believe what is going on in such a wealthy country. If you think you could not wind up in the shoes of these people think again. I am in a nice warm home and did not even want to go out in the cold to take out the garbage today. How lucky I am; for now.

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