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Snohomish County's cold weather shelters serve public

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — As temperatures dropped throughout the county, cold weather shelters were preparing to help. 
Michael Lorio, director for the Take the Next Step shelter in Monroe, sees a wide range of people struggling in his work. He said some are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. But the “homeless” demographic draws on a wide range of people. 
“Over the years and in each season, we see the elderly, families with children, people holding down jobs, trying to maintain some idea of normalcy. Alongside them, we see those struggling with health issues, mental health issues, and substance abuse,” Lorio said. “Every one of them has a reason for being in that position and needing our services.”
As for what the shelter needs, the Take the Next Step (TTNS) agency is hoping for some comforting and warm items to offer at the shelter, and send away with visitors. Those include “the basics” such as coffee and hot chocolate to warm up on-site. 
“We like to be able to give clean, dry socks, warm hats, scarves and such simple things (to) help prepare them for a difficult day ahead,” he said. 
 Other needs include “easy foods to help with a better night’s sleep.” Easy foods can be any variety of canned soups, canned chilli, canned pastas, cup of noodle, oatmeal and cereal. 
Lorio said community support keeps the shelter running, but cash donations are always appreciated. TTNS runs most effectively with the assistance of many hands.
“We are always looking for more volunteers to make a difficult season easier on everyone,” he said. 
The Snohomish Cold Weather Shelter also needs volunteers and is always open to financial donations to help pay for utilities and other expenses, said Therese Quinn, Emergency Management Specialist at the county’s Health District and coordinator for the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), a group of volunteers that help staff the Monroe and Snohomish cold weather shelters.
Donations can be given to the Snohomish Evangelical Free Church, 210 Ave. B, Snohomish with a note that the donation is for the cold weather shelter.
As his shelter and others around the county scrambled to ready for chilly days, Lorio spoke of why they exist in the short-term: “The shelter exists purely to prevent the loss of life in the most vulnerable due to exposure to the worst weather. I believe it is an absolutely critical answer to a desperate need.”
Take the Next Step’s website speaks to that need, with the landing page labeled “so you don’t have to walk all night just to stay alive.”
However, Lorio said shelters during cold weather are only a small component in the broader response to the issues that cause homelessness. Many are taking action to address the issues around it, but many, when asked, are still defining the “why,” which can include individual factors such as untreated mental health and drug addiction, as well as mainstream factors such as income that does not meet the demands of modern housing and health care costs. 
The county has a wide network of services available that can assist people who are unsheltered. Municipalities are finding their footing, and dedicating budget line-items to the needs around them.
Shelters are open around the county when the temperature drops below 32 degrees, the temperature considered dangerously cold. Open hours for shelters tend to depend on resources, such as volunteer labor and donations.
Cold weather generally starts in November and can last through March. 
Shelters vary in hours, days open, and location.
The Sultan Volunteers of America offers transportation to the Monroe shelter. Pickup is at 7:45 p.m. at the Sultan Library bus stop.
Phone numbers and locations for local shelters are: 
Monroe New Hope Fellowship (Take the Next Step-affiliated shelter), 1012 West Main St., Monroe: 425-512-7599 (hotline: 360-453-7622)
Snohomish Evangelical Free Church, 210 Ave. B, Snohomish: 425-512-7599
Salvation Army Everett: Shelter is in the United Church of Christ, 2624 Rockefeller Ave. (northeast corner of Everett and Rockefeller avenues), Everett: 425-259-8129
For a full list of shelters, visit www.snohd.org/471/Cold-Weather-Shelters
The 211 referral hotline can connect people to needed services for suicide prevention and mental health assistance, services directed at families, and those in need of employment. More information is available at www.wa211.org

  

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