Opinion | After amazing first season, what’s next for the homeless shelter?

It’s quite something, what’s been done for the local homeless community, in a single season.

Every night this winter, the Snoqualmie Valley Winter shelter opened its doors—first, at North Bend Community Church, then at Mount Si Lutheran, also in North Bend.

The guests, all folks with nowhere warm to go, stayed the night, as long as they held to the code of conduct, which includes no alcohol or drug use.

About a dozen people came nightly, mostly men, but also a few women, including one mom who found a place to stay for her teenage daughter, but needed her own refuge.

This all seems to be coming at the same time. We had a winter shelter open around the same time as a ban on camping in public places in North Bend, combined with the tear-down and clean-up of the shanty camps built in places like the woods next to the North Bend sewage treatment plant.

It looks to be a concerted effort to both protect the public, and public resources, from the safety issues the city associates with homeless camps—such as trash, human waste and discarded hypodermic needles.

Do the bans and bringing these folks inside really make a difference in changing lives? Right now, at this early stage, the approach seems to be working. Shelter guests have begun to find work, and others have taken initial steps to breaking free from their addictions. At the shelter, a lot of these folks look to be pulling their own weight. Guests do a surprising amount of chores around the place—enough for a church to cut back on pro cleaning costs.

With the first season of the winter shelter coming to an end, we’re in for some cooler nights yet this spring, and months to go until the shelter resumes in the fall. How will homeless deal with those, now that camping has been banned and camps razed? Do the shelter volunteers take a hiatus? Do we start from square one next fall?

And will the group of volunteers who started all this stay informal, or will this group take on more structure? And is that even necessary? All questions worth asking in the days and months ahead.

For now, this group deserves some major, unreserved kudos for their efforts to make this Valley a better place for all residents.

Volunteers with the Winter Shelter started this from nothing. In a matter of weeks, they found a site, hired and trained staff, gathered donated materials, started a website, and won over opponents in the community. What a way to put their faith in action! It should revive all our faith in the ability of this community to make a true difference when we need to.

You can learn more about the Valley shelter, or to donate, visit http://www.snovalleywintershelter.com.


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