Cold weather shelters starting to open across Puget Sound region
With temperatures expected to drop across western Washington, cold weather shelters will be opening this week in multiple communities.
Snohomish County officials said their shelters typically open when overnight temperatures are expected to drop below 34 degrees.
“We served 312 people last year,” a Snohomish County official responsible for shelter transportation said. “Typically, it starts pretty slow, but we’re expecting 10 days of cold weather, so it will be at capacity towards the end.”
So far, she stated the shelters are closer to half capacity, a number that was cut in half because of the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, we would be at capacity at around 50 people regularly,” she said.
Shelters are open in Everett, Marysville, Monroe, Snohomish, and Lynnwood. You can find a full list of locations and opening hours here.
King County is following suit, with the King County Regional Homeless Authority (KCRHA) activating Severe Weather Response protocols today through Dec. 2. For five nights, KCRHA is setting up an overnight shelter at Compass Housing Alliance, starting Monday night.
“The forecast predicts high temperatures not reaching over 39 or 40 degrees next week, with low temperatures that range from 23 degrees to 34 degrees,” said Anne Martens, Senior Director of External Affairs & Communications for KCRHA, in a prepared statement. “Should temperatures remain this low after Dec. 2, we will update with further activation plans.
“There was significant usage of the cold weather shelter at Compass in downtown Seattle during the previous cold weather activations earlier this month (both at the beginning of the month and last weekend) with up to 40 people using the extra overnight space,” Martens continued.
Compass Housing Alliance is located at 210 Alaskan Way S., across from the Ferry Terminal, and is open overnight from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. this week. There is a 60-bed capacity. More details can be found here.
King County officials said if temperatures remain low after Friday, the shelters will update its activation plan. As of this reporting, KCRHA does not manage Severe Weather Activation contracts outside of the city of Seattle.
Approximately 700 people who experience homelessness are killed from hypothermia annually in the U.S., according to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
“Adequate clothing, including hats and mittens, helps prevent hypothermia by creating a static layer of warm air, keeping the skin dry, and creating a barrier against the wind,” wrote Rebecca Sturgis, a researcher for the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Hats are especially crucial: Up to 50% of a person’s body heat can be lost through an uncovered head.”
Kitsap County also announced it’s opening four different shelters as well: Village Green Community Center in Kingston; Port Orchard United Methodist Church in Port Orchard; Gateway Fellowship, West Wing Building in Poulsbo; and the Silverdale United Methodist Church in Silverdale.
“Housing is the solution to homelessness. Extra shelter space during extreme weather helps meet the immediate need for warmth, but doesn’t solve the root cause,” Martens said in a prepared statement. “Housing is a basic human need, and every human deserves a safe place to live.”