How to Help

As Cold Weather Bears Down, Help Is Needed in City Warming Shelters

Shelters are open throughout Multnomah County—but without volunteers, there's a limit to how many people they can serve

By Cami Hughes December 29, 2021

Taking shelter at the Mount Scott Community Center during Portland's current cold snap.

Warming shelters for the houseless are open throughout Portland this week due to temperatures that are forecast to hover right around bone-chilling over the next few days.

But Multnomah County officials say they urgently need more community volunteers in order to keep those shelters open around the clock, and serving as many people as might need help.

Warming shelters provide overnight emergency refuge, ensuring that people don’t have to sleep outdoors in freezing weather; during extreme cold, they can expand to 24 hour services. Typically, they offer hot food, drinks, and a place to sleep as well as emergency gear like tents and sleeping bags provided by Transition Projects, a partner organization with Multnomah County that works to house the houseless in our community. 

Each shelter is designed to host upwards of 150 people. Volunteers help by handing out food, hygiene products, monitoring sleeping areas, and more. “When we have more volunteers, that means that we can accommodate more guests,” says Jenny Carver, emergency manager for the Multnomah County Department of Human Services. “We have a commitment to not turn away [anyone]. We just find the amount of space that we would need to accommodate that commitment.”

Volunteers can expect to monitor and provide resources for the sleeping spaces, staff the hygiene or food and refreshments table, clean and disinfect throughout their shift, or undergo some extra training to work at the reception table. Volunteers must be fully vaccinated and willing to mask up. Sign up for your desired shift and location here.

 If you can’t volunteer in person, you can find a list of needed items on, as well as information on where to drop off donations.

Find your closest warming shelter here:

  • Oregon Convention Center: 960 NE 1st Avenue
  • The Portland Building: 1120 SW 5th Avenue
  • East Portland Community Center: 740 SE 106th Avenue
  • Mount Scott Community Center: 5530 SE 72nd Avenue
  • Salvation Army: 5325 N Williams Avenue
  • Market Street: 120 SE Market Street
  • Reynolds High School: 1698 SE Cherry Park Road, Troutdale
Filed under
Show Comments