For Portland residents who live in public spaces, closures make life particularly challenging - and for some, terrifying.

COURTESY PHOTO: JOANNE ZUHL/STREET ROOTS - A person sits on the sidewalk on Portland's Old Town on March 25, two days after Gov. Kate Brown issued a stay-home order for Oregon residents.Surviving on Portland's streets was already a daily struggle before the coronavirus pandemic reached Oregon. Now, Gov. Kate Brown's "Stay Home, Save Lives" order and the ensuing closures have taken away the few respites that houseless people had from Portland's damp and frigid springtime weather.

During interviews with Street Roots, people living outside and in shelters said again and again that one of the greatest challenges of the pandemic is they have found themselves completely shut out of indoor spaces.

Organizations such as Street Roots, JOIN, Rose Haven and Human Solutions have moved the bulk of external operations to the sidewalk to comply with social distancing and safety guidelines from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. The few that remain open, such as the Resource Center at Bud Clark Commons, have strict limits on the number of people who can be indoors at one time.

Multnomah County libraries, where many people experiencing homelessness would use the bathroom and internet, are closed. And, meal providers have shut their dining halls, distributing to-go meals from the door instead.

"Our lines are getting longer, and the weather is miserable at night, so people are suffering with cold, wet weather and are not able to get any relief from the outdoors," Blanchet House spokesperson Julie Showers told Street Roots last week when she was interviewed for a story about the dining hall's supplies running low. "Because we used to serve people indoors, there was some relief from being outside, but we can't do that anymore."

"There's nowhere to go during the day," DJ Husar said. He sleeps on a mat at the Rescue Mission at night but has to find other places to be during the day when the shelter is closed.

"I'm spending a lot of time outside, talking to friends," he said.

This Street Roots story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.


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