Karen Batts, 52, died from hypothermia Saturday in the Smart Park parking garage in Portland, Oregon, homeless over $338 in delinquent rent. Batts is the second person to freeze to death, alone, on Portland’s streets in 2017.
Police were called to 730 SW 10th Avenue on Saturday afternoon because of reports that a woman was in the parking garage removing her clothes.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, hypothermia victims will often frantically remove clothing as the condition worsens because nerve damage can cause them to feel very hot, like they are on fire.
Batts had been living at a building for seniors and people with disabilities managed by Cascade Management, Inc. and Northwest Housing Alternatives, LLC, designed to be affordable for persons of limited means, until October, when she was evicted.
Multnomah County court records say Batts was evicted October 14 for being at least seven days late with the $338 rent for August — she was sent a 72-hour notice on September 9 warning her of the balance she owed. Building managers sued to evict Batts when she had not paid by October 6, and won by default when she did not show up for the hearing on October 14.
The executive director of one of the companies which manages the building, Martha McLennan of Northwest Housing Alternatives, told a reporter for local KATU-TV news that Batts had been a tenant since 2007 and had undergone a “change” of late. McLennan said “there were a variety of lease violations that were either damage of property or late payments, also incidents against staff and other tenants.”
According to the Oregonian, Batts had long struggled to maintain a permanent residence, moved frequently, and was also evicted in 1996 from another affordable housing building.
Five homeless people have died of hypothermia on the street in Multnomah County in as many years, and eighty-eight died on the street from all causes, “mostly from either drugs and alcohol or diseases,” in 2015 alone.