Homeless shelters open up more space during cold snap

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Tacoma, in Pierce County, is opening up more homeless shelter spaces for those seeking refuge during the cold weekend.

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This weekend’s dropping temperatures and forecast snow have caused homeless shelters to open more beds and motel vouchers.

Pierce County, the City of Tacoma and homeless service providers have come together to provide more shelter than ever before.

Catholic Community Services operations director Mike Curry said shelters have grown to prepare for an influx during cold temperatures, but social distancing requirements have restricted the normal admission amount.

Catholic Community Services operates shelters in the area such as Nativity House.

“COVID continues to be a major concern in our shelters, and we continue to work closely with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on testing (personal protective equipment) and other measures to reduce the risk. infection, ”Curry said.

The association has made efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, such as installing plexiglass dividers between beds and upgrading HVAC air filtration systems.

The Tacoma Rescue Mission added 50 beds to its total of 140 beds (90 at the men’s shelter and 50 at the women’s shelter), said executive director Duke Paulson. He doesn’t want to turn anyone away in cold weather, promising to convert the cafeteria, hallways and day space into sleeping areas if necessary.

He and Curry both say their shelters haven’t reached their maximum capacity this year. Both speculate that some homeless people have become comfortable living outdoors during the pandemic and have collected more goods than normal.

“As we figure out why, one factor seems to be people’s concerns about their property. For people camping on the street, entering a shelter can often mean having to put things away somewhere if the shelter does not have room to store them (most do not), posing a risk of loss. theft or damage, ”Curry said.

They both agreed that the cold weather may be more of an incentive to seek refuge indoors.

The city of Tacoma has also opened a 40-bed warm-up center at the Lighthouse Activity Center at 5016 A St from 12 p.m. on Sunday, December 26 through Sunday, January 2.

Pierce County recently increased its funding for homeless resources and providers after an increase in federal funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pierce County Council approved more than $ 253 million in investments for resources for the homeless in its biennial budget adopted last month.

In the past six months, the county has added 225 year-round beds, 90 additional winter beds and 120 inclement beds. The county has also helped provide more than 1,000 motel vouchers, said communications director Libby Catalinich.

County funded beds are open from November 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022:

  • Tacoma Rescue Mission opened 50 beds at Holy Rosary Church

  • Catholic Community Services Overflow provides 80 additional beds at Nativity House, 40 of which will only be open in inclement weather

  • Saint-Vincent-de-Paul offers family motel vouchers

Recent increases in capacity:

  • RISE Fraternity – 20 beds operational as of November 1, 2021

  • Tacoma Rescue Mission – 15 Bed Extension at Women’s Shelter

  • Low Income Housing Institute Aspen Court (formerly Comfort Inn) – 120 beds operational on December 15, 2021 – still ramping up, but doubling the pace to accommodate as many as possible in bad weather

  • Low Income Housing Institute on South 69th and South Proctor Streets – Expansion of 20 units December 1, 2021

  • Fife Accommodation Program – 10 beds – summer / fall 2021 (no exact start date)

  • Shiloh Baptist Church – 40 units – operational October 1, 2021

Josephine Peterson covers Pierce County government news for The News Tribune.


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