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Colder weather is here; the city and county are gearing up, but volunteers are needed.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler speaks on the homelessness crisis in downtown Portland on Saturday, Nov. 23. Colder weather is here again, and though many of us are fortunate to have a safe warm place to call home, there are neighbors in our community who need our help during these extreme conditions. For those living without shelter, even just a single day or night of severe winter weather – including freezing temperatures, high winds, snow, sleet and ice – is a life-threatening event that requires an emergency response. The danger grows as conditions linger.

That's why, no matter how many days of severe weather we might see, the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) and emergency management officials in Multnomah County and Portland all share a rapid-response plan that can scale up to provide the needed response. The plan is centered on a basic commitment: Anyone who needs a warm, dry place will have a warm, dry place to stay. No one will be turned away.

You can help also. These are a few basic ways for you to do that:

• If you see someone outside without shelter, and it appears they might need assistance, please call the non-emergency police line at (503) 823-3333.

• If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call Multnomah County's 24-hour crisis line at (503) 988-4888.

• On our coldest night, when we've declared a severe weather emergency, please call 211 if you see someone who needs shelter. During severe weather, no one seeking a shelter bed will be turned away.

Another way you can help is with donations and/or volunteering your time. If you go to 211info.org, you'll find links right at the top of the page that will let you sign up to train as a warming shelter volunteer. You can also donate winter gear — hats, coats, gloves, sleeping bags and socks — so outreach workers can share them with those most vulnerable to extreme conditions.

Remember, we can make a difference when we work together to keep our neighbors safe, warm and dry this winter. Your compassion and willingness to help your neighbors in need is the reason I'm truly humbled and honored to be your mayor.

Ted Wheeler is mayor of Portland, Oregon.


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