After just over two months of operation, the Friends of Youth winter shelter in Snoqualmie closed its doors.
Several factors led to the decision, which took effect Jan. 2, said Friends of Youth CEO Terry Pottmeyer.
“We had a lot of variation in the use of the shelter,” said Pottmeyer by phone. “Some nights, we had no one. Some nights, all six beds were full… It takes a long time to get the word out.”
The six-bed emergency shelter, intended to serve young adults, 18 to 24, was created in the existing Friends of Youth office in Snoqualmie, and permitted with a 90-day conditional use permit from the city of Snoqualmie. Although the city of Snoqualmie waived the $500 fee for the original conditional use permit, Pottmeyer said the organization spent nearly $34,000 to create and operate the shelter, train staff, and hire legal counsel to address a citizen’s appeal of its initial permit, before making the decision to close it.
Pottmeyer said Friends of Youth had to move quickly to create the shelter, using unspent funds from a King County Veterans and Human Services levy, but wanted to be more deliberate when considering whether to continue the shelter.
“What (the county) wanted to do was have an immediate impact, of having beds available for young people who are sleeping on the street,” Pottmeyer said.
Snoqualmie’s shelter didn’t have that impact, she said, probably because the people they wanted to serve are fairly cautious. “They have to trust our services and programs, and decide to access shelter,” she said. “But they’re living in a tent in the woods… They’ve figured things out and they’re a little reluctant to upset that.”
All of the staff and supplies hired or purchased for the Snoqualmie shelter were re-allocated to Redmond, which is full every night, Pottmeyer said. She adds that Friends of Youth will continue its work in the area, but through efforts like its youth outreach van, rather than shelter.
“We knew there were resources in the community that young people could access,” she said.
Just before the Snoqualmie shelter was closed, North Bend saw one open, the Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter, hosted by the North Bend Community Church. Staff at the North Bend shelter didn’t notice a significant increase in use when the Snoqualmie shelter closed, however.