Warming shelters closed yesterday despite continuing cold weather
Multnomah County announced yesterday that severe weather shelters were closing within hours even as snow remained on the ground in many parts of Portland. The decision was made in coordination with the City of Portland through the Joint Office on Homeless Services. While the decision follows the county’s policies to keep shelters open only as long as precipitation and temperatures are within certain boundaries (such as “Overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees, with an inch of driving rain”), overnight temperature forecasts are well below freezing. Even setting aside how difficult it is to sleep outside when temperatures fall below 32° in the most ideal situations, there are several strong arguments for keeping shelters open through out these cold snaps (or, you know, actually housing everyone safely regardless of their income: First, people can experience hypothermia at temperatures above 32°, so limiting shelter operations increases the risk of illness or even death. Second, this sort of whiplash destroys trust with people in need of housing support and other services. Given that Portland officials have argued that so-called ‘shelter-resistance’ is a factor in the proliferation of camps throughout the city, the logical step would be keeping severe-weather shelters open as long as possible. (If you hit a paywall on The Oregonian’s site, you can also read their article on MSN News.)
Expecting local governments to even meet the most basic expectations of homeless Portlanders is absurd, however: Multnomah County had previously told people using the severe weather shelters to expect the shelters to remain open through the weekend. Based on that information, shelter users left personal possessions at shelters. When shelters closed abruptly yesterday, shelter staff bagged those possessions and handed them over to Rapid Response Bio Clean, according to multiple social media posts. This morning, Multnomah County announced shelters would reopen at 7 p.m. tonight, reemphasizing the question of why people using the shelters had to spend last night in the cold.
New year, new laws
As the clock rolls over to 2022 tonight, a variety of new state laws take effect and some older laws expire. Here is a selection:
- Police oversight reforms, including new reporting standards for misconduct, exempting law enforcement officers from prohibitions on employer access to social media accounts, creating an online statewide public database of officer discipline, limiting the ability of police officers to lie to people under the age of 18, and new limitations on online publication of booking photos.
- Restricting arrests associated with protests declared unlawful assemblies to crimes other than a failure to disperse.
- Permanently requiring government agencies to stream meetings online and allow members of the public to testify remotely (to a ‘reasonable’ extent).
- A requirement that counties tally ballots mailed by or on the day of an election, rather than only those ballots received by or on the day of an election.
- Banning discrimination in schools and workplaces based on “physical characteristics that are historically associated with race,” including hair styles and hair texture.
- Allowing pharmacists to sell cold medication containing pseudoephedrine to consumers without a prescription.
- The moratorium on residential mortgage foreclosures expires.
Use your Oregon political contribution tax credit before midnight
Every year, Oregon tax payers can receive a credit for donating to a candidate for Oregon office or an Oregon political committee. To receive the credit, you must make your donation no later than today, December 31, 2021. If you file taxes as an individual, you can receive a credit for a donation of up to $50. If you file jointly, you can receive a credit for a donation of up to $100. The credit is limited to tax payers with an income less than $75,000 (or a combined income of $150,000 for joint filers).