It's not winter yet, but Multnomah County officials and warming center coordinators have begun putting out calls for cold weather donations before temperatures plummet.

Shelters are already being put to use, the director of the North Portland Winter Shelter said during a press conference yesterday. His church, Portsmouth Union Church, was the first to open its shelter last week. The first night, it hosted 12 people. On Monday night, a week later, it was full, with 50 adults sleeping on the church floor.

"At this time of year, your help can mean the difference between life and death for people who are living outside," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said. "We need your winter gear and we need you to look out for your neighbors."

The county operates 1,400 shelter beds year-round and plans to add more than 200 this winter. When severe winter weather hits, emergency protocol is initiated so that government buildings and churches are opened with extra beds for people in need. No such protocol has been necessary yet. But the Joint Office of Homeless Services is calling for gear and volunteers in preparation.

"For us, winter is traditionally a time for care, compassion, charity and generosity," Kim James with the nonprofit Cascadia Behavorial Health said. "But it's also the time of year when it becomes more important than ever to do whatever we can to help each other."

Service providers ask people with gear or time to donate to visit for information on training sessions and a list of items that are most needed.

Portlanders can also donate any time via online shopping lists created by shelter operators. Items purchased online can be delivered to JOIN, 1435 NE 81st Ave., Suite 100, Portland, OR, 97213.

Transition Projects in downtown Portland, at 665 NW Hoyt St., is also accepting in-person donations 24/7.

Here's a list of the items that are most needed:

● Thick socks (adult sizes)
● Waterproof/resistant gloves or mittens (preferably dark colors/black, adult sizes)
● Waterproof/resistant winter coats (men's and women's sizes)
● Sleeping bags and warm blankets
● Waterproof/resistant hats (preferably dark colors/black)
● Knit hats (preferably dark colors/black)
● Tarps (preferably brown, dark colors)
● Hand warmers
● Rain ponchos

City leaders also ask that Portlanders avoid calling 911 to get help for people in need. Rather, people should call 211, or if the person is in medical distress, the police non-emergency line, 503-823-3333.