Seasonal Shelter Opening 

This Fall (2017), a coalition of groups came together to establish a seasonal cold weather shelter.  Their plan was to open a shelter on a daily basis for 90 days from December through the end of February.  Their initial opening has been delayed and they are looking at opening this coming January through March.

The shelter will be run by Friendship House using the Seventh Day Adventist church on College Way.   They have hired staff to man the shelter but are looking for volunteers to help setup and take down the shelter each day. If you are interested in helping, contact Tina at Friendship House - tina@skagitfriendshiphouse.org - 360.488.4357
We are hoping that this will be a successful venture and supply a much needed resource during the coldest months of the year.

In light of this, Shelter from the Cold will not be opening this season, instead, we will put our support behind the seasonal shelter.  

I want to extend my thanks and appreciation to each of you who have volunteered, donated, prayed for, and supported the shelter over the past eight years.  You have helped provide a much need resource in our community. 
God's Blessings
Keith Luna

The Well Church Offers Shelter From the Cold
MOUNT VERNON — Eugene Collinson, 38, sat on a bench outside New Life at The Well Church, his lap covered in a blanket and streams of steam coming from his mouth.
   After a verbal argument with his roommate, Collinson was out on the street. He has no family or friends to take him in, so he came to the shelter at The Well.   For people like Collinson who have no place to go when the cold hits,The Well is basically it for cold weather shelters in Skagit County. It opens when the forecast predicts temperatures of 25 degrees or lower.The church, located at 123 E. Evergreen Street, opens its doors to anyone needing a place to sleep and a hot meal. Guests are offered hot coffee, soup, blankets and breakfast in the morning.They are only asked to not cause trouble and not abuse any substances.   “It makes the heart feel good,” Collinson said.   Boxes of gloves, socks, hats, toothpaste, scarves and other clothing are stacked up near the entryway and in rooms behind the kitchen.Volunteers try to provide what the guests need from the donations.   

The Rev. Keith Luna said six people used the shelter Monday night, some leaving behind their clothes and backpacks to stake out their spot for later. Luna said it is hard to guess how many people will come so volunteers have to be prepared.They’ve seen as many as 20 people looking for shelter. One obstacle is that news among the homeless community takes time to get out, Luna said.   Luna said the church is not concerned with prying into why people are homeless.They simply want to offer a safe place to sleep.   “Our concern is to show them, at least for one night, that someone cares,” he said.   Though held at The Well, Luna said that the shelter is run by members from various churches in the area that come together to make it happen.   That said, Luna said the shelter is constantly in need of volunteers who can pass a background check and work shifts.   The need becomes especially great with consecutive days of cold, which is exactly what is expected this week. Luna estimates the shelter will be open for the next five days.

Why 25 Degrees? Isn’t 26 or 27 Degrees Cold As Well?

Frequently we are asked a question along this line 

“Why do you wait until the temperature is 25 degrees to open the shelter?  Isn’t 26 or 27 degrees cold as well?”  

The question is often stated in such a way as to imply that the shelter and church are without compassion.

We have been operating the shelter as an emergency cold weather shelter for 8 years.  When we began we took our initial guidelines from another emergency shelter in another county.   Their guideline was 22 degrees.  I don't remember our reasoning at the time but we settled at 25 degrees.  Yes, we understand that 26 degrees and for that matter 32 or 40 degrees is cold when you are living outdoors.

Over the years we have discussed the trigger temperature many times and have kept it at 25 degrees for a couple of reasons.

1- We have a very limited pool of volunteers who are willing to be involved in working at the shelter while it is open.  We can barely field enough volunteers when we open at 25 degrees. If we were to raise the trigger temperature higher it would increase the demand on an already over tasked set of volunteers. 

To have fewer volunteers per shift is not acceptable as it may leave our volunteers and guests in a vulnerable position.  To simply open the doors and turn the heat up and leave the church unsupervised would lead to terrible consequences.

The makeup or mix of people at the shelter for the most part are homeless or use a car for shelter.  In reality we see a wide cross-section of people. I enjoy getting to know most of them.  Some however are not good people and cannot be trusted so we must have good supervision.

Many of our guests are suffering from mental illness, some with fairly severe problems.  They are vulnerable to predatory types of people. They should not be alone let alone wandering the streets, but such is our mental health care these days.  Some of our guests are addicts and from past experience we know that if given the chance they will use drugs within the church and will attempt to sell drugs from the church.  Some of our guests are thieves and will steal if given the opportunity.   Keep in mind we are using a church not an empty building for a shelter.  

For these reasons we require volunteers to fill out an application that includes a background check and that every shift is adequately staffed.

2-There is an additional factor which is harder to explain but comes from experience.  The longer we are open in a stretch the more "comfortable" some of our guests become and the more negative the dynamics of the group.  When we first open people arrive tired and cold and everyone pretty much just relaxes and rests.  After a week we find that increasingly our volunteers have to address issues of people pushing the rules and a growing intolerance of each other.  We are an emergency shelter not a long term shelter.  We are not set up, nor could we be, to provide the services and structure of a long term shelter.    It is not easy to tell people we will not be open because it is no longer 25 degrees and the forecast is for 30 degrees.  We understand that 30 degrees is cold too, but we must set boundaries that enable us to sustain this ministry throughout the winter so that we will be able to open our doors in extreme weather emergencies.

On the last morning of a cold spell we provide our guests with sleeping bags and blankets and clothes and toiletries.  It is not much but when you have come in without a coat or a blanket and leave with warm coat and sleeping bag it is a big deal.

Please do not in any sense diminish the generosity or the compassion of the shelter or the church and its volunteers to open its doors in extreme cold.  Doing so simply betrays a lack of understanding of the complete picture of the ministry.  The cold weather shelter is just one piece of what is done.  Throughout the year thousands of items of clothing are provided to the poor through our clothing closet.  Every month more than a thousand meals are served the last 5 nights of month.  

The shelter is limited in what it can do but it is one place a group of people largely castoff from our culture can experience the love of God with a friendly welcome, a hot meal and a safe and warm place to sleep.  I use the phrase shelter but what we are really talking about is people - volunteers and supporters who give of their time and resources because they care about another group of people.  

Hope this helps


Cold Weather on the Way
The shelter will open when the forecast low in the Skagit Valley Herald is 25 degrees or colder. The doors will open at 5:30 PM. If no one registers by 6:30 PM we will close for the night. Our mission is to provide safe overnight shelter during extreme weather to willing people who have no place else to come in from the cold.