Arctic weather claims life of homeless man

With freezing weather gripping outer East Portland, many fear that others living outdoors may also perish …

Medical first-responders leave the spot in the Hazelwood neighborhood where a lifeless man was found – he had been sleeping outdoors in freezing weather.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

From what passersby saw, it appeared as if a man, later identified as 51-year-old Mark Elliot Johnson of Hillsboro, was sleeping – with a pillow under his head, and a blanket over his body – in the doorway of a business near SE 99th Avenue and East Burnside Streets. He was found dead there on January 2.

At 7:45 p.m., Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct officers were called there fora “welfare check on a man down”, and found him unresponsive.

“Portland Fire & Rescue personnel responded and determined that the man was deceased, and had been for several hours,” reported PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

The next day, Simpson followed up, saying, “The Oregon State Medical Examiner determined Johnson’s cause of death to be hypothermia.”

Because it was a legal holiday, there were few people at this outer East Burnside business center when the man laid out his bedroll.

As freezing temperatures continue, Portland Police officers are actively looking for, and checking on, vulnerable people, and facilitating their transportation to warming shelters as needed, Simpson said.

“If you see someone outside, unsheltered, whose life appears to be in danger or is in an apparent medical crisis, call 9-1-1,” advised Simpson.

“Otherwise, if you see someone about whom you are concerned, such as not being dressed for the weather conditions, call police non-emergency 503-823-3333, and request a ‘welfare check’ for that person.  Or, to assist someone in locating shelter or transportation to shelter, please call 2-1-1,” Simpson added.

For additional information on the dangers of cold, including hypothermia, carbon monoxide hazards, and important information on the use of alternative sources of heat, see the webpage provided by Multnomah County: CLICK HERE.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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