As frigid temperatures continue and significant snowfall is expected across the North Olympic Peninsula, Colleen and Ted Chapman are grateful that shelters and warming centers have extended hours to give people a place to stay warm.
Shelters in Port Angeles and Port Townsend have extended their hours and a day-time warming center in Sequim is now open every night of the week.
“Anybody who needs help and who is willing to take the extra steps, they’re willing to help them out,” Ted Chapman said.
The Chapmans were among several people who were at Serenity House of Clallam County’s night-by-night shelter Thursday morning.
The shelter, which typically serves people from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., is currently open 24/7 to give people a place to get out of the cold.
While the Chapmans were in a separate room reading, others were watching TV and enjoying warm drinks. People have had the chance to take showers and get laundry done as well.
Colleen Chapman, who is pregnant, said the extended hours at Serenity House have made it easier to connect with services and she is hopeful about finding housing soon.
Serenity House’s shelter at 2321 W. 18th St. in Port Angeles has been open 24/7 since before the first snow of the season began Sunday. Blue flags throughout the community let people know about the extended hours.
Jen Mobley, the acting shelter director at Serenity House, said that while there have been upward of 50 people using the shelter overnight, she is concerned about those people still outside.
“Our temperatures are dropping to 20 degrees,” she said. “I can barely stand out there for 10 minutes.”
Serenity House has added additional van runs to make sure people aren’t stuck in the cold, she said. The Serenity House van typically picks people up each evening outside the Port Angeles Police Department at 321 E. Fifth St.
She is concerned that when the weather worsens that road conditions would be unsafe for the van.
Mobley said donations from the community have been pouring in since Serenity House expanded the shelter’s hours, including toiletries, lunches from Salvation Army and other things.
She said donations that would help during over the weekend are things that would keep people entertained, such as books or games.
“We really need donations for things to get past the cabin fever,” she said. “Like some cribbage, cards, puzzles and movies.”
Sequim warming centers
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) will have a warming center available at the Sequim Transit Center at North Second Avenue and West Cedar Street. It will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through at least Wednesday.
The Sequim Community Warming Center will be open from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March 31 at the lower level of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave.
Kathy Morgan, housing director at OlyCAP, said that while it is cold out, the warming center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which typically opens at 9 p.m., will open an hour early.
While the Sequim Community Warming Center doesn’t have cots, people are welcome to stay overnight, she said.
Port Townsend shelter
OlyCAP also has extended the hours at the Jefferson County shelter in Port Townsend, Morgan said.
The shelter, operated by the Community Outreach Association Shelter Team and OlyCAP, is in the basement of the American Legion Post No. 26 building at 209 Monroe St. It’s been open 24/7 since Saturday, she said.
“That’ll stay that way until the weather warms,” she said.
Morgan said that while it is still freezing and snowing out no one will be turned away from the shelter, even if it runs out of places to sleep.
“What I don’t want is people sitting outside,” she said. “I don’t want people thinking they can’t go to the shelter for whatever reason.”
She said law enforcement and officials from OlyCAP have been reaching out to people at homeless encampments to encourage them to go to the shelter.
Morgan said she was saddened to learn that on Monday a woman in Port Townsend had died outside.
“That was unfortunate,” she said. “Nobody needs to die out in the cold.”
Morgan said that many people often prefer not to go to shelters for a multitude of reasons, but she is strongly encouraging people to at least go in to warm up.
Morgan said that the shelters expanding their hours to accommodate people who would otherwise be outside illustrates the lack of housing on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“We as a community have not addressed the lack of housing issue and that should be top on the agenda for each county in 2019,” she said.