As snow continued to fall and nearly 500,000 Portland residents lost power, the University Place Hotel supplied Portland State employees with a place to stay, as well as people experiencing homelessness, low-income patients receiving treatment at Oregon Health & Science University and medical personnel working at OHSU.
Much of the assistance provided was the result of an intergovernmental agreement between University Place, the City of Portland and Multnomah County to provide overflow shelter space for people experiencing homelessness during severe weather events. This agreement was made last year as a way to offer quarantine space for first responders. Don Forsythe, PSU's treasurer, said the city and county requested their room-blocks be used for overflow space and individuals were transported to the hotel starting Feb. 12 as the storm blanketed Portland in several inches of snow.
In total, University Place was able to offer housing to 140 people experiencing homelessness, 13 low-income patients from OHSU, 30 medical personnel who could not make it home after work because of the snow, 23 PSU employees who were required to work on campus and could not make it home after their shift and 13 PSU individuals and families who were without power.
This is not the first time University Place has been able to offer a safe space for the PSU community in the wake of extreme weather conditions. In September when Oregon was faced with historic wildfires, the hotel provided rooms to students and employees forced to evacuate their homes.
"Over the past several years we have been striving to improve the property and transition the mindset of the of the university community that the hotel is not just an asset of the university — but an asset for the university," Forsythe said. "By building relationships and partnerships within the university and throughout the broader community for the duration of the pandemic, during the wildfires and now through a severe weather event — the staff of the University Place continues to demonstrate the property's value beyond its primary role as a hotel and conference location."