A public hearing was held last week, a needed step in approving the Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter this year.
Already an emergency shelter went in place over the Halloween holiday, from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, because of freezing weather.
Temperatures in the valley are predicted to sit at just above freezing leading up to the winter shelter’s opening on Nov. 30. It’s planned to run until at least next January.
The seasonal housing will first be located at the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, and then relocate to North Bend later in the season.
There were few complaints expressed during the hearing on Oct. 30. One resident made note of guests who smoked too close to facilities and said people and children felt troubled by shelter guests congregating outside. Changes were made at the meeting to accommodate her concerns.
“The main focus of our agency, the main priority aside from everything else we do, is making sure people come in doors,” said Jennifer Kirk, executive director of Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services. “We want people to come to us, regardless of any barriers, as long as they live to the values we have in the shelter while they’re with us.”
The transitional housing gives men, women and children a warm place to stay though the winter season. The low-barrier shelter allows families to stay together, does not permit alcohol or drug use at the space or any registered sex offenders to stay.
New this year, there will be a mobile storage trailer for guests to store their possessions. There’s capacity to store the belongings of 32 people in the trailer lockers.
Last winter shelter season 112 individual people were served, just below the usual annual number of 125. Last year’s snow storm left people without a way to reach the shelter, Kirk said.
Of last season’s total, 75 percent came from a place not meant for habitation — a tent, a car or trailer with no heat. And they saw the largest number of children come through shelter doors.
A boy with Autism — which can make close contact with others difficult — went from sleeping in a van in close proximity to his large family, to having more space to himself at the shelter, before locating more permanent housing.
Although it’s likely the hearing examiner will OK the conditional use permit for the shelter, (they have until mid-November to do so) there’s another obstacle that could leave families out in the cold a little longer this year: Funding.
The shelter is planned to open 27 days later than it did last year due to a financial deficit of about $50,000, Kirk said.
Because of a missed deadline for a grant of $25,000 given out every six months, there’s a lack of funding to pay the needed two-person overnight staff.
Kirk said a staff member having to take time off because of a family emergency led to the oversight.
Typically that funding would be granted in September, just before chilling temperatures take over and the shelter opens. Now the money won’t come until next March.
Kirk hopes that donations from generous residents can help ease the unforeseen financial hole.
To donate to the shelter, go online to svshelterservices.org.