Volunteers open cold weather shelter in Monroe
MONROE - A handful of people with big hearts have been ensuring that the homeless in the Monroe area have a safe place to go during winter’s coldest nights.
With the help of the city and several community organizations, Hannah Lundstrum of the Monroe YMCA recently helped form the Sky Valley Cold Weather Alliance. The Alliance provides a cold weather shelter with rotating, overnight locations to those in need when the temperature is predicted to drop below freezing for four hours or more.
“We have a lot more homeless (in the area) than a lot of us realize,” said Neil Watkins, executive director of the Sky Valley Food Bank.
Watkins approached the YMCA this past spring to ask for their help with the project, Lundstrum said, after trying to get a cold weather shelter started for a few years.
“When I took over the food bank almost three years ago, it became very apparent to me that there’s a real need in the community during the winter for housing,” Watkins said. “The difficult thing in any community is to find locations because an awful lot goes into it. You have to find a place that’s comfortable with these folks coming in.”
Lundstrum, who is now the chair of the Alliance, worked over the spring and summer to ready the shelter. It opened Nov. 25 and has seen a growing number of people use it who would otherwise be left to freeze on the streets.
The shelter, which has eight cots, sees an average of five to six people per night the shelter is open.
The Covenant Church, the ROCK Church, Cascade Church and YMCA all share the responsibilities of the shelter. The shelter’s eight cots were provided by the city of Monroe, the churches donated blankets and pillows and the YMCA washes the bedding. The Sky Valley Food Bank provides food for dinner in the evening and for breakfast in the morning.
“It’s been really awesome to see so many organizations step up,” Lundstrum said. “The city has been amazing.”
At the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, Lundstrum filled council members in on the newly formed Alliance and its work in the community.
“In any of the decisions that you guys make, please keep this population in mind because they’re definitely the people in this area that need your help the most,” Lundstrum said.
To find out if the cold weather shelter will be open, call the hot line at 360-453-7622, which is updated daily at 2 p.m. For information on hours and the rotating locations,
go to http://www.monroewa.gov/index.aspx?NID=472.
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