Two men found dead of heat in homeless camp along road in Bend, officials confirm
Two men who lived with dozens of other homeless people along a stretch of Bend’s Hunnell Road died hours apart last Sunday due to the scorching heat, police and witnesses confirmed on Friday.
Joseph Wade Davis, 64, had set up a makeshift tent with pipes and PVC sheeting along the road and was found dead around 10 a.m.
Shortly after 2 p.m., Bend police responded to a white motorhome parked north facing on the road at the north end of town after a volunteer attempted to wake Alonzo Jay Boardman, 60, unsuccessfully.
The two are among 94 people statewide whose deaths are linked to unprecedented heat. Officials in Oregon still don’t know how many more homeless people may have succumbed to the extreme temperatures. In Washington County, the death toll included one homeless person and a man was found dead in his vehicle in Clackamas County.
In Multnomah County, with more than half of heat-related deaths in the state, authorities said they were not yet sure how many homeless people may have died from the extreme heat.
“The overwhelming majority of people have died in their homes, but at this point we are unable to disclose the exact number of people who are homeless due to missing information and because establishing homelessness requires attention. intensive investigation and follow-up on the deaths, ”said county spokeswoman Julie. Sullivan-Springhetti said via email.
A Bend, a friend asked for help for Boardman after finding him unconscious, said Luke Richter, who was at the homeless camp on Sunday to distribute food, washcloths and water and provide a shower truck. The friend asked Richter and another volunteer to go check on Boardman’s condition.
When Richter arrived at Boardman’s van, all the doors were closed but at least one of the windows was down, he said.
“It was well over 100 degrees indoors when I stepped in,” said Richter.
Bend’s high temperature that day was 104 degrees.
Boardman, who was known as “Lonnie,” had told other campers on the road that he wasn’t feeling very well and just wanted to be left alone, Richter said.
When he was discovered dead, Boardman was wearing only shorts and socks, Richter said.
“He was in the back of the van in a bed,” Richter said. “It looked like he was trying to take a nap, and he just didn’t wake up.”
While another person checked out Boardman’s pulse, Richter said he was yelling at her to see if he would move or stir, but they got no response and called 911.
Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz said two people have died in the homeless camp and Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel has identified the two men. The state medical examiner’s office has listed the men among people across the state whose deaths are believed to be linked to record high temperatures that have reached 116 in Portland, 117 in Salem, 108 in Bend and 118 in Pendleton.
Hummel called on the city to find ways to commit money to “developing safe, healthy, humane places for all of us to sleep.” I don’t want to have another Sunday like June 27th.
“Joseph and Alonzo were our neighbors, they were loved by their family and friends, and they will be missed,” he said in a statement. “Our community must decide whether we embrace and welcome all of our neighbors, or whether, instead, we want to choose who is worthy to live among us. “
The pair had been living on the streets for several years, according to Richter, president of the Central Oregon Peacekeepers, a social justice advocacy group, and Stacey Witte, executive director and founder of REACH, which offers mobile case management and outreach. vulnerable people.
Richter had helped move Davis and his belongings from a homeless camp to the town’s downtown along Northeast Emerson Avenue days earlier as the town prepared to remove campers there, citing problems of security.
“A lot of our volunteers spent a week trying to find other places to go so they didn’t destroy their belongings,” said Richter.
He took Davis to the Hunnell Road camp, but said it wasn’t ideal as it wasn’t shaded and it was far from downtown services.
“Joe was in a wheelchair so it was important for him to stay close to downtown,” said Richter, noting that Davis had both feet amputated.
If Davis hadn’t been forced out of downtown, Richter wonders if he would still be alive.
“Unfortunately, that probably would have made all the difference,” Richter said. “Maybe he was able to get to a cooling shelter before the worst happened. “
Since the deaths of the two men, the city has released tents with foggers and is organizing shuttles to cooling centers and churches, he said.
Richter, who grew up in Arizona, said he was very familiar with “what the heat can do to people.” But he said he didn’t have seen someone die from it before.
Witte had known both Davis and Boardman for years. She said both men were well connected to support services.
But even so, she said, “we can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do. … That doesn’t mean they always want to seize opportunities.
“Joe was well known to everyone in this area, from social service agencies to the hospital to the police department. We visited him often, ”said Witte.
Davis was offered a tent to live in, but said he was more comfortable using the tarps for makeshift shelter, Witte said.
She said she visited Boardman a week ago on Friday. “He had just received a trailer and invited me to see it,” Witte said.
Boardman was born in South Dakota and had previous addresses in Idaho.
During her 16 years of working with REACH, Witte said she has unfortunately seen many deaths, but they are usually due to exposure to cold.
“The heat is just as dangerous,” she said, “if not worse.”
The closure of on-site dining programs in Bend due to the coronavirus pandemic has also contributed to the isolation of people living on the streets and their exposure to the elements, she said. In the past, places offered temporary respite from heat or cold. The programs offered take-out meals instead, but are slowly reopening, she said.
“It’s a loss of life, and it’s devastating,” Witte said.
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