Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission works to bring the homeless inside this winter

Jan 12, 2024, 6:10 PM | Updated: 6:11 pm

union gospel mission...

Union Gospel Mission in Seattle giving out helpful items for homeless individuals to stay warm this winter. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

Helping Seattle’s homeless brave the cold — that is the mission of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. During stretches of freezing temperatures, the organization increases its efforts to reach out to the homeless and offer life-saving assistance, whether it’s clothes, food, blankets, hand warmers and most importantly shelter.

“We get a really good response because of the relationships that we’ve built with the people out on the street, continuously and how long we’ve been doing it,” Darren Caves, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission assistant director of outreach, told KIRO Newsradio.

More on Seattle’s cold wave: Dangerous cold, some snow sweep across Western Wash.

There are more than 14,000 people living unhoused in the Seattle/King County area according to a Department of Housing and Urban Development report dated December 2023. (A PDF of the report can be accessed here.) According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, approximately 700 people are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness are killed from hypothermia in the U.S. annually.

It can be a life-or-death situation when temperatures dip down into the low 20s, or even into the teens, and the organization comes prepared with everything the homeless need to stay alive during a cold snap.

“We’re offering shelter. We’re offering blankets and hand warmers and socks and clothes and coats and gloves,” Caves said.

Why many individuals reject shelter offers

The mission stated that only approximately 50% of homeless individuals take up its offer for shelter. Some have said a shelter is a bad fit for them.

“We go there, and we get our stuff stolen,” a homeless man named Haru said. “It’s very unsanitary and the rules they have in place, nobody follows them. There are drugs and mental illnesses that can make you feel unsafe.”

Haru eventually took them up on their offer of shelter. He recently moved to Seattle from Spokane, knowing all too well how dangerous these cold temperatures can be.

“I was out in Spokane at one time and 12 people died in one night,” Haru said. “Froze to death.”

More from James Lynch: Seattle woman, 80, carjacked at gunpoint and beaten

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has multiple teams and runs two shifts five days per week to reach as many people as possible.

“We let them know that there are places for them to go and get out of these conditions, especially those coming up this weekend,” Caves said. “This is lifesaving.”

The mission will keep their teams on the street until temperatures moderate.

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission works to bring the homeless inside this winter