What happened: Portland police responded to a 911 call just after dawn, made from a bus stop on Southeast Powell Boulevard.
They found a woman, whom an officer described as "very mentally ill." Partially clothed in the icy aftermath of Portland's worst winter storm in years, the woman clutched a newborn baby. An ambulance rushed the child to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital, but staff could not revive him.
Initial reports suggested the infant had lived for a short while, although the medical examiner later ruled he had been "stillborn." The boy never had a name.
A neighbor said the woman lived in a homeless camp adjacent to the Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant at 9120 SE Powell Blvd., even as temperatures plunged below freezing and more than a foot of snow covered the ground.
Why it mattered: Dozens of people die on Portland's streets each year—80 in 2016. But most of them are adults at the end of a long plunge through the city's social safety net.
This death followed a disastrous week of snow and cold that caught local officials flatfooted: Four homeless people died of exposure in the first 10 days of 2017. Newly sworn-in Mayor Ted Wheeler told WW the infant's death was a "damnation" of the city's response to mental illness and homelessness.
The boy's mother was civilly committed after his death. But the moment echoed long after, with vigils, impromptu memorials and protests at City Hall—all of them asking why this city could not protect its most vulnerable citizens.
The death occurred in the district of state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland), who chairs the House Human Services and Housing Committee. Keny-Guyer says she will introduce legislation in February to increase the recording fee on legal documents such as property deeds to increase state funding for housing.
"It is heartbreaking to know that the death of that baby was preventable," she says. "This tragic death is a reminder of how far we have to go in putting a permanent system in place to ensure that people have access to affordable housing and the services needed to keep them stable and give them a chance to thrive."