By Chris Winters Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — For the first time in recent memory, homeless people will have a warm place to stay in Marysville on cold winter nights.
The cold-weather shelter in Damascus Road Church, located across from City Hall, is the joint effort of seven different churches, each of which provides volunteer staff for one night per week whenever the temperature drops below freezing.
The shelter opened Monday with one person spending the night, said Jason Brower, the Local Service Admission Deacon at the church. On Tuesday, there were two guests.
“Even if we had just one, it’s still success,” Brower said. That’s one person not sleeping on the street in subfreezing weather.
The seven churches are working with the Marysville Police Department and Marysville Community Lunch, a program of Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that provides meals, to spread word of the new shelter among the homeless community. MCL is also providing breakfast and dinner for shelter guests.
The churches have been working for much of the past two years to get the shelter launched, said Victor Rodriguez, pastor at Free Methodist Church. In addition, he said, two people died from exposure in the city in recent years.
“We just felt that it was a need that was growing here,” Rodriguez said. “It’s part of the DNA of churches to love God and to love others.”
Rodriguez spent Monday night at the shelter with four volunteers. The shelter’s guest that night would have otherwise slept in his car.
Donations of money and supplies came from the Marysville Noon Rotary and the Soroptimist International Club of Marysville. Until Damascus Road stepped forward with the offer to host the shelter, the plan had been to move the shelter from one place to another depending on the day of the week, much like the Arlington shelter does.
Marysville police chaplain Greg Kanehen said officers will include the new shelter in their overnight rounds to ensure safety for the residents and the community. It’s the first time in the 15 years he’s been in Marysville that a cold-weather shelter has operated, he said.
The death from exposure three years ago of a homeless man under the Allen Creek Bridge provided the catalyst for action, Kanehen said. Since then, one other homeless person died in Marysville from exposure.
“Those situations, they should not be happening,” Kanehen said.
Other cold-weather shelters are open in Edmonds, Arlington, Monroe and Everett, although only the Everett shelter has a permanent location.
The need for homeless services in Marysville is acute. Shelters throughout Snohomish County operate at capacity, if not over, once the temperature drops below freezing, said Nathan Marti, the county’s Homeless Management Information System coordinator.
Marti’s office is also responsible for the annual Point in Time survey of homeless people living in shelters or on the street. The Point in Time count takes place each January, and while the count includes those living in shelters, and therefore tends to skew the data toward communities such as Everett that have the most shelter capacity, Marti’s office also tracks where the homeless last had some sort of stable housing.
According to the Point in Time survey, 44 individuals, comprising 38 households, last lived in Marysville before becoming homeless. In addition, 7.3 percent of people making use of the county’s housing services come from Marysville.
The Marysville shelter has enough mats to sleep 20, with separate areas for men, women and children if needed.
Marysville Mayor John Nehring said he’s grateful for the shelter’s presence because the city doesn’t have the money to operate a shelter of its own. In the future, the city may look at using community development block grant funds to support organizations providing services to the homeless.
“Any way we can use those funds to help people stay in their home and not become homeless, that’s probably the avenue we can most help out right now,” Nehring said.
Chris Winters: 425-339-3102; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The shelter is located at the Damascus Road Church, 1048 State Ave., across from Marysville City Hall. The shelter opens at 8 p.m. on any night when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Guests are served a hot meal and the facility is locked down for the night at 9:30 p.m. Guests also receive breakfast at 6 a.m. before the shelter closes for the day at 7 a.m.