A team led by Oxford Street Shelter director Rob Parritt canvasses an Interstate 295 overpass near Fitzpatrick Stadium on Tuesday night during the annual point-in-time homeless count.

A team led by Oxford Street Shelter director Rob Parritt canvasses an Interstate 295 overpass near Fitzpatrick Stadium on Tuesday night during the annual point-in-time homeless count. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The city of Portland’s annual point-in-time homeless count identified at least 10 persons living outside Tuesday night.

“It was cold and it was raining sideways all night,” said Rob Parritt, director of the city-owned Oxford Street Shelter.

Parritt said more than 30 volunteers split up into teams and spread out through the city. They found several encampments, including one under the Deering Avenue Interstate 295 bridge, near Deering Oaks and Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Parritt said the I-295 encampment was unusual in that one or two persons had been living behind a padlocked fence under the bridge – although they were not there Tuesday night. He is not certain how the campers got past the fence. His team became concerned after spotting what looked like a body lying under a blanket. “We called and yelled, but got no response,” he added.

Rob Parritt calls police Tuesday night after finding a homeless camp in a locked area near Fitzpatrick Stadium. The police got into the camp, but no one was in it.

Rob Parritt calls police Tuesday night after finding a homeless camp in a locked area near Fitzpatrick Stadium. The police got into the camp, but no one was in it. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Out of concern for the well-being of the campers, Parritt notified the Portland Police Department and Portland Fire Department. Firefighters used bolt cutters to get through the fence.

There was no one under the blanket, but Parritt said he recovered mail with a person’s name on it and a recent postmark. He did not recognize the name. He described the campsite as having been lived in recently, complete with articles of clothing and food.

“Thank God there was no one there tonight,” Parritt said, referring to the harsh weather conditions that brought sleet and freezing rain to Portland on Tuesday.

Parritt said his teams found at least 10 people living outside, and there could have been as many as 12. But he won’t know for certain how many there were until volunteers meet Wednesday morning to finalize their numbers. One person he met agreed to accept shelter while another refused.

Rob Parritt looks through items after discovering an empty camp in a locked area under an Interstate 295 overpass near Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Rob Parritt looks through items after discovering an empty camp in a locked area under an Interstate 295 overpass near Fitzpatrick Stadium. Staff photo by Derek Davis

“It’s not surprising that we found so many people. We know that folks are camping out,” he said.

Each January, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires federally funded homeless service providers across the nation to conduct a point-in-time estimate of the homeless population. The data collected during the survey are used to develop strategies to end homelessness.

Last year’s point-in-time survey found 53 people living outside in Portland. Parritt said new reporting regulations implemented in 2016 required the city to report those found on the night of the actual survey as well as those people that homeless shelter staffers identified later on. That means the 2017 numbers of unsheltered individuals could increase as well.

Portland reported having 759 homeless individuals, with 706 living in shelters in 2016. According to the Preble Street social services agency, 26 homeless individuals died in Portland during 2016.