New program installs first cooling unit in city of Portland, preventing summer heat deaths

June 10, 2022 | By: Erik Cathcart

Thursday, June 9th, Earth Advantage® and the African American Alliance for Homeownership (AAAH) installed the first cooling unit in a Portland home as part of the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund’s (PCEF) groundbreaking Heat Response Program. The program is working to install cooling units in the households of heat-vulnerable Portlanders who are elderly, living alone, have medical conditions or are low income.

“Our team is excited to be installing the first unit for the city’s Heat Response Program,” said Isaiah Kamrar, program manager for the alliance. “The heat wave last summer revealed that many homes were simply not built for the extreme heat we experienced. This Heat Response Program will be able to serve as a bridge to greater climate resilience within Portland’s African American community by addressing the urgent, life-threatening challenge of climate change.”

PCEF selected seven Community Distribution Partners, including the AAAH, to distribute, transport and install cooling units in qualified households this summer. All seven partners are local nonprofits and housing providers whose regular clientele includes vulnerable people and households in Portland. 

“Last summer, Portlanders suffered immensely under the extreme heat emergency caused by the worsening climate crisis,” said PCEF Program Manager Sam Baraso. “We are proud of our partnership with Earth Advantage to install life-saving cooling units in the homes of heat-vulnerable Portlanders, and we are deeply grateful to our civic and nonprofit leaders, Portland businesses and our entire community for contributing to the success of these vital programs.”

Currently, Earth Advantage – the nonprofit managing the purchase and warehousing of equipment – has ordered 3,007 units, many of which have been received, with installations starting today. Earth Advantage and community partners are working quickly to install as many units as possible this summer. Ultimately, the organizations will install 15,000 units over five years.

“The community partners and our staff at Earth Advantage have all been working tirelessly to get units ordered, installers trained and units installed as quickly as possible to save lives during this summer’s heat waves,” said Pilar Calderin, Earth Advantage’s Climate Justice Program Manager.

The community partners are leading the process of selecting recipients of cooling units based on eligibility and need. It is not a first-come, first-served program, and there is no sign-up process. In addition to the African American Alliance for Homeownership, other community partners include Central City Concern, Northwest Housing Alternatives, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiative, Reach CDC, APANO Communities United Fund and Verde.