A 52-year-old woman, Karen Lee Batts, who struggled with mental health issues, in Portland, Oregon froze to death after becoming homeless three months ago when she was evicted from her low-income housing, according to Oregon Live.
At around 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, January 7, Portland police were called to the Smart Park garage at 730 Southwest 10th Avenue complaining about a woman “removing her clothing and appeared to be struggling in the cold weather.”
When emergency services arrived at the scene, the woman – who was later identified as Karen – was dead.
A local medical examiner’s office determined that Karen, who was homeless due to being evicted three months earlier from Oak Apartments, had died from hyperthermia, making her the fourth Portland resident to die from the cold weather within the first weeks of 2017.
The medical examiner stated that “people with late-stage of hypothermia often take off their clothes, thinking they are extremely hot due to nerve damage.”
"Once Batts had been evicted, she began sleeping on the street — and it was even harder for her family to find her." https://t.co/zvfNR1CYUx
— logged on, tbf (@tbqff) January 12, 2017
It was reported that Karen was living on the street during the winter months for failing to pay $338 in past-due rent.
Martha McLennan, who is the executive director of Northwest Housing Alternatives, stated that Karen had been a tenant since 2007, but she had seen a change in her behavior.
“There were a variety of lease violations that were either damage of property or late payments, also incidents against staff and other tenants,” McLennan.
“It’s a terrible tragedy to have a situation where someone ends up alone and without resources.”
Before Karen was evicted, McLennan stated that they tried to get her help. She went on to say that “we hate these sorts of situations, but unfortunately, when someone decline services there’s not much you can do. And I can say there were dozens of attempts to help.”
“Right now, our mental health system, our addiction system, our domestic violence system are all based on the victims seeking out support, and if they decline services, those systems kind of go away.”
Relatives say Karen was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1980s and hadn’t been taking her medication. In fact, it was reported that she would often abuse drugs and alcohol, prompting her to refuse help from “her family, social service organizations and Portland police.”
Her brother, Alan Batts, said, “She did call on my phone in December and I knew that she wasn’t on her medication and I didn’t pick up the phone.”
Karen’s mother, Elisabeth Batts, said, “I’m so sad. It’s just, a parent isn’t supposed to lose a child.”
She went on to say that she wasn’t aware that her daughter had been evicted from her apartment until late October when Karen was already living in the streets.
Elizabeth said, “Nobody reached out to us. Nobody cared about us to tell us what was going on. I mean, why couldn’t someone tell us something.”
Had she known her daughter was evicted and put on the streets, Karen’s mother stated that she would have paid for her rent, which has done in the past.
— Laura Gunderson (@LGunderson) January 11, 2017
It was reported that Karen has had several incidents in the past.
In November 2016, Portland police were called because she was standing barefoot at the intersection of West Burnside and Broadway street, covered in bruises and drinking hand sanitizer.
When Portland police arrived at the scene, she told them that she was trying to keep her mouth clean.
In another incident, she was “kicked off a TriMet MAX Yellow Line train for sleeping over four seats in the middle section of the train” and didn’t pay her fare. She told officers that she didn’t pay because she had fallen asleep.
Before Karen froze to death, she listed the Bud Clark Commons, which is a day center for the homeless, as her address but it was not immediately made clear if she had ever been there during.
— Scallywagandvagabond (@ScallywagNYC) January 10, 2017
Just blocks from where she was found dead, there was a warming center, which is available to Portland and Gresham, but she never went.
Karen will be buried Wednesday in the cemetery plot her mother bought for her in 2001.
[Featured Image by Dovate/iStock]