Winter in Western Washington can be a cold, rainy and sometimes snowy situation. This can make it extremely difficult for those who don’t have a place to stay with a roof over their head.
Love Abounds Here in Yelm has been working since 2016 to ensure homeless people are respected, healthy, safe and valued members in the community.
After years of effort by the organization, Yelm will now have a Cold Weather Warming Center. The city has agreed to let the Yelm Community Center become a place for homeless people to go during hazardous weather events.
“When it’s cold, it’s heartbreaking seeing somebody sitting outside a church so cold they can’t hold a fork,” Love Abounds Here Director Deb Larson said. “While that can be cold and miserable, sometimes temperatures get so low it can cause frostbite and hypothermia.”
According to Love Abounds Here founder Suzie Quigg LeFurgey, the organization is committed to helping the homeless during heat advisories, cold temperatures and every day in between.
The organization has been talking with the City of Yelm since 2018 about figuring out how to have some kind of warming shelter. This year, Love Abounds Here was able to come to an agreement with the City of Yelm and used the center for the first time this early winter as an arctic cold front moved over most of the United States.
According to the agreement, any day when the temperature dips below 32 degrees is known as a Code Blue. This means outside conditions can become deadly to those that cannot get indoors. It’s this condition that triggers the opening of a warming center overnight at the Yelm Community Center, if it is available on the schedule.
“Although they are acclimated to being consistently outdoors, with temperatures dropping, it is very wearing on the body and the minds of those who are outside,” LeFurgey said. “After all, what is colder than cold? Ice cold. The Cold Weather Warming Center is designed as a respite from a very hard situation.”
The warming center was proposed by the Yelm Homelessness Task Force for the Yelm City Council.
“There simply isn’t a warm place for the homeless population to go at night,” LeFurgey said. “There are shelters outside of Yelm but they have a waitlist and don’t always accept walk-ins.”
LeFurgey said that at this time over 54 adults and 250 students of the Yelm School district are experiencing homelessness.
When the warming center opened for the first time, several community members used it overnight over a period of a few days. The doors of the community center during a Cold Blue will open at 6 p.m. and those using it can stay until noon, and then volunteers clean things up and get it ready for the next evening. If it’s still cold out, people can still move over to the Yelm Timberland Library and then the senior center.
Comfortable camping mats are set out with blankets. Love Abounds Here also serves soup and breakfast for those at the warming center as well.
“Each of them is deserving of a warm home, good health, and love and support,” LeFurgey said. “Love Abounds Here is committed to doing just that.”
For operation of the warming center there will be an operations manual, trained monitors and resources for a successful and safe service at the center.
“In order to stay at our shelter for services, there are expectations that we have of everyone we receive as a guest,” LeFurgey said. “Upon initial entry, guests are informed of the rules and are asked to sign a Guest Space Use Agreement. Any out of the ordinary incident of not following the rules will follow an incident reporting and grievance process.”
Love Abounds Here also provides some emergency hotel housing and also helps homeless people get their social security and EBT cards for foods, as well as IDs. They also hold resource fairs for people to find new connections to help them.
Lefurgey also wanted to thank the following volunteers for their efforts: Wendy Tinker, Jodie Dawes, Keith Dries, Gregg Thompson, Lady Archer, Krys Brown, Kathy Brock-Frasier, Ashley Brooks and Sherry Short. She also wanted to thank the city staff for working with Love Abounds Here in the implementation of the warming center.
Those looking for more information about Love Abounds Here can go to www.loveaboundshere.com and also talk to Larson by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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