The 52-year-old woman was evicted from a low-income complex for seniors and people with disabilities three months ago.
PORTLAND — A Portland woman died of hypothermia three months after being evicted from the low-income apartment where she had lived for 10 years.
Karen Lee Batts, 52, died alone in a Portland parking garage during a stretch of below-freezing temperatures in early January, reported The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Batts was evicted from Oak Apartments, a low-income complex for seniors and people with disabilities, after apparently deteriorating behavior. She had been a great tenant, but neighbors began to complain about her about six months before the eviction, according to Northwest Housing Alternatives executive director and building co-owner Martha McLennan.
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McLennan said a staff coordinator received notices that Batts was damaging property, threatening neighbors and acting erratically — unusual behavior for her. The coordinator visited her dozens of times, trying to persuade her to seek help, but Batts refused.
“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,” said McLennan.
According to court records, Batts was officially evicted for $338 in unpaid rent and a $5 late fee. McLennan said, however, that the eviction was the culmination of Batt’s ongoing problems at the apartments.
As one of the state’s largest affordable housing providers, Northwest Housing Alternatives deals with many complaints each year, including unpaid rent, poor housekeeping, bad behavior and breaking property rules.
“But most often, we’re able to turn that around and not in the end have somebody lose their housing,” McLennan said.
The company has 1,800 units and has evicted 14 people total, McLennan said.
McLennan said Batts told officers she had somewhere to stay after the eviction. But she was ticketed $175 in December and kicked off a local train for sleeping over four seats. Her listed address was a day center where homeless people can receive mail and store their belongings.
Two weeks later, Portland Police received a call about a woman undressing in a parking garage. People with late-stage hypothermia often take off their clothes because they think they are extremely hot because of nerve damage.
By the time police arrived, Batts was already dead.