Homeless warming shelter extends operations through cold spell

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In winter weather, the needs are many and solutions fairly simple — homelessness people need warmth, food, a few amenities and people to care, said Christy Druffel, executive director for United Way.

With the thermometer staying well below freezing at night, Druffel and others have decided to extend the overnight warming center at First Congregational Church through Friday night, she said today. “After that, it will depend on the weather.”

The church is at 73 S. Palouse St.

Although the brutal single-digit cold in the Valley was forecast to go away today, snow and continued freezing temperatures remain in the forecast.

According to the National Weather Service, an approaching storm could bring from 1 to 4 inches of snow by Friday and nighttime lows are expected to stay in the teens and 20s through the weekend. Daytime highs are also predicted to stay below freezing.

Another weather system on Sunday will have warmer temperatures, but will also bring mixed precipitation in the form of snow, freezing rain and rain.

On Wednesday night, a dozen or so guests arrived at the warming center to take advantage of warmth, a safe place to sleep and good coats someone had brought to the church, Druffel said.

Warming center organizers continue to seek help in staffing the overnight accommodation. Two volunteers are needed for each Friday shift: 7 p.m.-midnight, midnight-5 a.m., 5-8 a.m. Folks signing up for a shift should be able to fully commit to working it, Druffel said.

Valley Transit bus passes sold in packs of 20 one-way tickets for $10 also are needed.

“We pull them out of the booklet and pass them out as needed,” she said.

Sturdy backpacks, winter-weight sleeping bags and blankets also are welcomed.

The need for funding remains constant, Druffel said.

“Any donations for the warming center don’t go to United Way or the church,” she said. “It stays strictly for this need.”

For more information, to volunteer or make a donation call 509-240-0133 or the United Way at 529-1183.

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