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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

22-Year-Old Froze to Death in Waterfront Park

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 5:28 PM

If you're sleeping in a warm bed tonight, thank your lucky stars. Police found a man dead in Waterfront Park this morning and an autopsy this afternoon determined that he died of hypothermia.

Twenty-two year old Michael Ellis was partially clothed and inside a frozen fountain (not Salmon Springs) next to the Rose Festival building when he was found this morning. It's not clear what he was doing in the hours before his death.

There are several year-round and emergency warming shelters in the downtown area and they were not filled to capacity last night. The Red Cross at Downtown Chapel filled 60 out of its 100 beds, for example, and the Imago Dei shelter on SE Ankeny filled 90 of its 150 spots (plus sheltering five pets).

Mike Ellis was just one of many people who sleep on the streets every night in Portland. The most recent one-night count of homeless, which takes place in January, showed 1,591 people sleeping outside in Portland, including eight unaccompanied youth under age 18. Of the 646 homeless people surveyed in the Portland Vulnerability study, 14 percent had medical problems related to exposure, like hypothermia or frostbite.

Homeless shelters in the area badly need blankets and coats, so if you have any extra, now is the time to donate.

Update 9:19pm—I should clarify that it's not clear why Ellis was in the fountain, but his friends (read the comments) say he was not homeless, unlike many people who face exposure on the streets at night. I shouldn't have assumed he was sleeping in the fountain, it's entirely possible that he wound up there under any variety of circumstances. One friend pointed me to what he says is Ellis's Facebook. I'll definitely post more on this when I know any more details.

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