Woman freezes to death in parking garage after being evicted from affordable housing

Batts is the third homeless person to have died of exposure so far in 2017.


A Multnomah County woman died this week of hypothermia after being evicted from affordable housing for being late on rent.

Karen Batts, 52, was evicted from her Portland apartment building in October for being late on her $338 monthly rent payment. She died on Sunday in a parking garage.

On Saturday afternoon, police arrived at 730SW 10th Avenue after receiving a call that a woman in the parking garage was removing her clothes. It is believed that Batts already had hypothermia at this point, as victims of hypothermia often have nerve damage that can cause them to feel extremely overheated. 

Batts lived in an apartment building that provided affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. She was evicted by the property management companies, Cascade Management, Inc. and Northwest Housing Alternatives, LLC. Court records state she was evicted for being at least seven days late with the $338 rent payment for August.

Landlords served Batts with 72-hour notice on September 9. On October 6 an eviction complaint was filed with the court. Because Batts did not show up on the October 14 scheduled court date, the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs by default.

Martha McLennan, executive director for Northwest Housing Alternatives, says Batts had a sudden change in her behavior last spring, which resulted in some late payments and lease violations.

According to Karen’s mother, Elizabeth Batts, “nobody reached out” to the family. Her family also stated that she had schizophrenia. Elizabeth said that she had occasionally paid her daughter’s rent in the past but was unaware that her daughter was facing eviction. By the time they found out she had been evicted they were unable to locate her.

Regardless of her apparent mental state, Northwest Housing Alternatives says that when she was evaluated by mental health workers she did not qualify for a mental health hold.

Batts is believed to have been homeless since we was evicted in October of last year. She is the third homeless person to have died of exposure so far in 2017. 


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.