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Louis Williams has been on the streets for 15 years. He could find space inside shelters like the Union Gospel Mission, but he’d rather be outside.
“I’m claustrophic. I just don’t like it. I like to stay outside,” he said. “Thirty or 40 degrees ain’t too bad. But lately it’s been in the teens. Kind of cold.”
Williams said he stays warm with “just a sleeping bag and thermal underwear and some socks. That’s about it.”
On nights like this — with record cold temperatures predicted and winds making it feel even colder — the Union Gospel Mission opens up and provides blankets, mats and sleeping bags. Earlier this week, the mission got help from an unlikely source.
Rap star Drake came to Old Town after his concert on Tuesday. He saw the homeless people and gave the Union Gospel Mission a substantial cash donation to buy more blankets to help more homeless people brave the cold.
“It lets me know that even famous people got to have hearts for those who are less fortunate,” said Dave Willis of the mission, “It brings them back to reality – ‘Hey I could be here. I could have been here.'”
Several shelters and churches in Portland opened their doors and the city is also helping.
“People can call 211 to find out where there are spaces at a facility near them,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz told KOIN 6 News. “We may, at the end of this week, be opening some of the community centers which I’m in charge of to make sure there’s enough space for folks.”
With the cold weather likely to stay around, more people may need it.