Walla Walla warming center an overnight haven for homeless

The First Congregational Church opens a warming center to shelter homeless people during the snow storm and frigid temperatures.

The First Congregational Church opens a warming center to shelter homeless people during the snow storm and frigid temperatures. Photo by Michael Lopez.

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About 20 people used the warming center at First Congregational Church on Thursday night, from “very young adults” to older veterans, said Christy Druffel, executive director of Walla Walla County United Way.

The warming center, accessed through the church’s parking lot at 73 S. Palouse St., will operate at least through tonight. After that officials will decide to open based on predicted nighttime temperatures.

The cold snap that brought single digit temperatures and snow to the Walla Walla Valley this week is expected to moderate starting Saturday, although lows in the 20s and snow is in the forecast for the weekend.

In addition to overnighters at the warming center Thursday, a family of five came in to request warm winter coats, Druffel said. One woman brought in a dozen U.S. Army blankets her father had brought home after serving in World War II.

Also passed out was fresh fruit, bottled water, soup cups and hygiene kits donated by Walla Walla Community College, Druffel said.

“Those were a big success. People were so excited,” she said. “Today they will go to the YMCA to take showers, they’ve opened their doors for that.”

Organizers say there is plenty of food on hand, but getting more bottled water, blankets and warm coats in good shape would be helpful.

For more information about the warming center’s needs and hours, call 509-240-0133.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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