Awareness continues amid prolonged cold snap

December 27, 2021

The awareness van pulled up at Southwest 3rd and Couch in Old Town around 11 a.m. on December 27. Like so many Monday mornings, Multnomah County Community Justice Department Mental Health Department The mobile unit provides a “welcome” service to those regularly contacted by the team and to others who may need a lifeline. But this week, that lifeline is even more urgent with freezing temperatures forecast for the New Year.

“We are trying to re-engage people who are on community supervision, parole and probation, but in addition, we are also working with anybody who may need these basic services like food, clothing and blankets, ”said John McVay, sworn community justice officer at the Multnomah County Community Justice Department. The department (DCJ) provides community support for people involved in justice.

“We touched base and provided supplies to at least 125 people and provided 75 meals provided by the county juvenile services division food service to make sure people have their basic needs met and have information about them. shelters, ”he said.

The Multnomah County Mobile Mental Health Unit is one of many teams carrying out outreach activities during the long cold spell that began on Christmas Day. Organizations such as Cascadia Behavioral Health Awareness Teams, JOIN Night Outreach and Cultivate initiatives in East Multnomah County and self-help groups have also worked hard to reach those who may be exposed to the cold.

Outreach resulted in the distribution of socks, ponchos, mylar sleeping bags, hand warmers, hoodies, pants, gloves, hats, blankets and more, including a large one. part is distributed through the Joint Office of Homeless Services Supply Center.

But work, McVay says, goes far beyond physical needs.

“The goal is to go to the same place on the same day – at the same time, because part of what we do is to build relationships with the people we work with,” he said. “Part of what’s really important is connecting with people; leverage relationships with people to encourage them to access shelters.

Shelters against bad weather are open in Multnomah County and will remain open 24 hours a day for as long as the county reaches thresholds it considers unsafe.

On Monday, the four-person mobile team not only provided information on the warming centers, but also transported those with navigation difficulties to the desired location. And like humans, freezing temperatures can take a toll on pets too. That’s why the Mental Health Unit team is also working with Multnomah County Animal Services, providing blankets and pet food for pet owners.

The unit’s mobile van is stocked with hand sanitizer, first aid supplies, masks, hydration packs and hygiene kits, gloves, sleeping bags, tents and phones. use – as well as the opioid reversal drug, Narcan. It provides storage for goods and heating. The van awning allows people to connect to wi-fi and workstations, with two charging stations capable of quickly charging multiple mobile devices at once.

The unit was created to reach people in different ways amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now reaching people during extreme heat and cold events.

It’s an attempt to meet people where they are and change the way services are delivered, says McVay.

“A lot of times people think of parole and probation as just about getting people into custody,” McVay said. “While we hold people accountable, we also help people re-engage and move forward with their lives. We develop relationships with the people with whom we work.

We connect people with service. “

See photos from the Multnomah County Community Justice Department Mobile Mental Health Unit.

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