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Oregon's triple-digit temps are especially hard on those living on the streets


It's hot in the Pacific Northwest, so hot that Oregon's governor declared a state of emergency across much of her state this week. In Portland, temperatures are expected to hover around 100 degrees through Saturday. That's a temperature the city is just not prepared for. And it's left those living on the streets looking for any way to cool down. OPB's Rebecca Ellis reports.

JULIE SHOWERS: Here you go. Would you like a water?

REBECCA ELLIS, BYLINE: Standing outside Blanchet House, where she works, Julie Showers is catching people as they leave.

SHOWERS: Would you like a popsicle?

ELLIS: Throughout the year, unhoused people can come to this nonprofit in downtown Portland to get a warm meal. Today, they're getting cold things as well, icies (ph), water, popsicles. Thirteen-year-old Avery Humphries (ph) and his brother take blue raspberry. Their dad, Jesse Bo (ph), chooses a red one.

JESSE BO: I feel like I'm sweating so much that it's like I'm losing weight.

ELLIS: This heat wave has descended upon the Humphries family at a time when they found themselves in unfortunate circumstances. They recently lost their housing. And for the past few weeks, the family of three has been camping in a tent a few blocks away. The tent is hot. And the whole family is planning to head to a cooling center tonight. Braden (ph) is 11.

BRADEN: It's a spot that we can chill at.

BO: And it's got air conditioning in it?

BRADEN: I don't know.

BO: I don't know.

ELLIS: It does have air conditioning. The county is overseeing four overnight cooling shelters for anyone who needs to get out of the heat. But not everyone living outside is sold on the cooling centers. Jerome Byrdon (ph) is also on his way out the door.

JEROME BYRDON: I don't like to be around a lot of people, so that would hold me up. You know what I mean?

ELLIS: Not wanting to be around people is a common issue. County emergency manager Jenny Carver says they've tried to reduce barriers by allowing pets at the cooling centers and providing guests a place to store their belongings. Carver started in her position last June. It was the very same week the region saw record-shattering temperatures that killed dozens.

SHOWERS: I saw someone come in visibly sort of, like, stressed. And he collapsed.

ELLIS: Rory Lidster (ph) knows exactly what it feels like to be stressed from the heat. He's been camping under a small canopy of cherry trees in North Portland with his partner. Today he moved to one of the cooling centers nearby.

RORY LIDSTER: And it gets to a point where you feel like you're going to pass out. And when - I know when I get to, like, starting to feel like that, a little lightheaded, dizzy, I know it's time I got to stop.

ELLIS: He's planning to stay in the cooling center. He says that with temperatures like this, being outside just isn't worth the risk. For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Ellis in Portland, Ore.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "MULLED WINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Ellis
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