For as long as 69-year-old Judy Weber can remember, she has been sensitive to heat.
Now Weber is facing Portland’s hottest week ever, with no air conditioning and a broken heat pump at his mobile home in Southeast Portland’s Centennial neighborhood.
“We went to bed last night, and it was 90 degrees there,” Weber said Tuesday.
Temperatures this week are expected to remain in the high 90’s and low 100’s till Sunday. That kind of relentless heat is dangerous for communities like Mobile Estates on Southeast Division Street, where many residents are dealing with serious health conditions.
Records released by the state last year showed that of the nearly 100 heat-related deaths that occurred during Oregon’s 2021 Heat Dome, one in five were people who lived in mobile home parks, according to a report by The Oregonian/Oregon. analysis found.
This year, Multnomah County officials and others have sought to better prepare for extreme heat by reaching out to the most vulnerable communities, including elderly residents, multi-family buildings, manufactured homes or those living alone. The city of Portland is installing cooling systems in the homes of low-income residents, but the rollout has been slow.
She said Weber’s husband, Marilyn, has severe psoriasis, which has made it difficult for her to use her hands and walk. He was struggling to fix the broken fan.
He’s also the only one in the house who can drive, so the family, including their 46-year-old daughter, had no plans to make it a cooling center, although TriMet is offering free fares to do so.
Multnomah County’s weathering program installed the couple’s heat pump in 2012, he said, and it stopped working around 2016. He said he tried calling the county, but he would have to fill out an application to install a new pump which he said was also lengthy and complicated.
County spokesman Ryan Yambra said anyone struggling with the application can call for help, and someone will keep them informed of the process. “We always want to make sure the person is taken care of,” Yambara said.
To be eligible for meteorological assistance, a family’s income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, according to the county’s website. For example, a family of three people, such as the Webers, would qualify if they earned $3,838 a month or less before taxes.
For Nancy Crawford, another Mobile estate resident, the unreliable air conditioning allowed the temperature inside her home to soar to nearly 90 degrees this night. She said she slept poorly but she was getting the unit fixed.
At 58 years old, Crawford is one of the area’s younger residents. Many of his friends in their 70s and 80s, including Chris Long, Clara Smith, and Mary Harris, used the community pool for a comfortable stay.
But the memory of last year’s heat dome was still fresh for many. Richard Smith has lived in the community for almost a year, and vividly remembers last year’s heat wave.
“It was pathetic, just absolutely pathetic,” he said.
Smith and his wife have since bought an AC unit for their bedroom, but a heat wave can leave the rest of the house at anywhere from 85 to 90 degrees. The couple plans to go to Ross Dress for Lace to pick up a few things and calm down. Smith lent some fans to the Webbers and offered cold water to others who needed it.
“We’re always trying to take care of neighbors and check on them, because so many of them are vulnerable and at risk this summer,” Smith said.
– Austin de Dios; [email protected], @austindedios; (503) 319-9744