Oregon community organizations prepare to keep homeless safe during heat wave

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — Organizations across the region are gearing up to make sure the homeless are hydrated and stay safe during the forecasted heat wave.

On Sunday, a team with the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency (MWVCAA) was already scouting areas and making the rounds early ahead of the high temperatures expected this week.

Part of the agency’s work encompasses helping the homeless.

“The plan today is really just getting out into the community and connecting with those that are experiencing homelessness,” said Robert Marshall, the emergency manager with The Arches Project, a division of the agency which is dedicated to addressing housing instability and homelessness.

“We have these five-gallon water containers and so half of these are filled with Gatorade beverages and half of them are filled up with water,” Marshall said as he motioned to the supplies in the back of a van.

RELATED: Heat wave expected to bring 100-degree weather to Portland this week

KGW caught up with Marshall and his team as they were headed to Geer Community Park in Northeast Salem.

“We saw quite a few people that looked like they might be in need of some services,” Marshall said.

The goal throughout the week is to spread information about cooling centers and resources while also handing out Gatorade, water and other supplies to people living on the street.

Marshall said last year’s historic heat wave caught the team a little off guard. They were still able to help people stay hydrated and get other help, but said this year, the team made sure to plan ahead.

“This year we now have a comprehensive plan in place,” said Marshall. “If the temperatures are this, then we’re gonna do this and this is how much staff that we need for it.”

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“If somebody’s in a state of distress because of heat exhaustion, or heatstroke, we’ll call 911 and we’ll get emergency services out there. So, it’s a pretty broad operation and it’ll go on for the next several days,” said Jimmy Jones, the executive director of MWVCAA, which encompasses The Arches Project.

“We have to review our maps to check where everybody is and where the highest density locations are at a moment,” Jones said.

RELATED: Where to stay cool in the Portland area during the heat wave this week

In Portland, the Blanchet House was also preparing for a busy week. On top of their regular meal services, the Blanchet House’s executive director, Scott Kerman, said the organization will be extra vigilant this week, offering water, clean shirts and hygiene kits to people experiencing homelessness.

Kerman said the team will be distributing large amounts of water and checking in on community members to make sure they’re okay. In an effort to keep water cool, they also plan to freeze water bottles.

Back in Salem, people who are homeless said they are grateful for the help.

“I am grateful because I know what it’s like to be by myself,” said a man named Xavier.

“They bring us water, helps me lot. Makes me feel like somebody cares,” a woman named Tina said.

Another woman, Kristy, said she believes the work the team is doing is important.

Jones said there are anywhere between 1,800 to 2,500 homeless people in Marion and Polk counties, so anything anyone can do is helpful — even if that’s just checking in on a stranger, directing them to a cooling station, or handing a bottle of water or electrolyte drink to someone standing on the street.

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