On Saturday, the state low for Oregon was 27 degrees Fahrenheit. While many were bundled up inside their warm homes, one woman was on the streets dying. A 52-year-old woman, who has since been identified as Karen Lee Batts, died Thursday from hypothermia. Why in the world was she on the streets?
According to The Oregonian, Batts “was evicted from an apartment complex for low-income seniors in October.” They reported:
‘Batts was found in the Smart Park parking garage at 730 Southwest 10th Avenue. The Portland Police had been called because she was taking off her clothes and appeared to be struggling in the cold weather… By the time police arrived, Batts was dead. Police said Saturday she likely died of exposure.”
Though many would assume that a victim of hypothermia would simply feel cold the entire time, the nerve damage caused by the extreme cold can cause a feeling of being extremely hot. Thus, victims of hypothermia will take their clothes off as they feel like they are on fire, which further exposes them to the elements. According to The Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of hypothermia includes slurred speech and mumbling, confusion, poor-decision making, drowsiness, lack of concern about one’s condition, loss of consciousness, weak pulse, and shallow breathing.
According to the Willamette Week, Batts’ apartment was meant to “provide affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities.” However, public records showed she was evicted for $338 in overdue rent last September. When the Willamette Week reached out for comment to the company over the apartments, Northwest Housing Alternatives, their executive director Martha McLennan commented:
‘There were a variety of lease violations that were either damage of property or late payments, also incidents against staff and other tenants. It’s a terrible tragedy to have a situation where someone ends up alone and without resources… We hate these sorts of situations. But, unfortunately, when someone declines services there’s not much you can do. And I can say there were dozens of attempts to help.’
‘Our staff reached out to her repeatedly, had Project Respond come reach out to her, had adult protective services come and reach out to her.’
She also claimed that due to privacy laws, they were unable to notify family members when tenants are at risk of being evicted.
Indeed, OPB reports that Batts’ mother, Elizabeth Batts, claimed NOBODY reached out to the family. They reported:
‘Batts said had she known her daughter was facing eviction, she would have paid her rent, as she has in the past.’
Because Batts was evicted and homeless, the family was unable to find her on the streets.
This was not Batts’ first eviction from “affordable housing” according to the Oregonian. She was evicted in 1996 from another affordable housing development. One would think if affordable housing was actually affordable for seniors and the disabled, they wouldn’t be evicted, right?
As astonishing and shocking as this is, Batts is not the first homeless individual to die from hypothermia this year. Earlier this month, Mark Elliot Johnson and David Guyot died of hypothermia while homeless.