EVERETT — On nights when temperatures dip below freezing, a patchwork of emergency cold weather homeless shelters open across Snohomish County. Inside are badly needed beds, which sometimes amount to a thin mattress on the floor and a blanket.
Without these spaces, many people would spend the night huddled in cars trying to keep warm or walking the streets.
With a stretch of icy temperatures predicted to last late into the week, two sites have remained closed. Others have opened but struggle to find volunteers.
“Usually when you get a long cold snap, we get a lot of people coming in,” said Therese Quinn, a coordinator for the county’s health district. “When it gets really, really cold, it’s so dangerous to be out there.”
She manages volunteers for shelters in Monroe and Snohomish.
This year the South Snohomish County Cold Weather Shelter had to find a new location after construction began on the new Edmonds Senior Center. It has been a night-time homeless refuge when the cold hit for several seasons.
On average about 25 people come to the south county shelter each night it’s operating, according to Mark Waldin, a volunteer who runs the site.
Waldin had hoped to open for this week’s entire stretch of chilly weather, which began Sunday night in parts of the county. As it turned out, acquiring the needed permit for the new location at Maple Park Church in Lynnwood took longer than he thought.
“It was a logistical issue that I am as responsible for as anyone,” Waldin said.
Julie Moore, Lynnwood’s public affairs officer, said the shelter was set to open Tuesday night after the city issued a permit Monday.
Once the shelter is up and running, finding volunteers willing to stay overnight will become the next challenge.
It’s the hardest slot to fill, Waldin said.
In Marysville, the shelter is unlikely to open anytime soon. The Damascus Road Church was set to host it this year.
“The church went in a different direction for now,” said Zoe Wlazlak, who runs the site. She said volunteers are all still willing to operate a site if a new building is found.
In the past, the group provided beds for about 15 people each night it was open, she said.
Exceptions to the fire code were made to allow for cold weather shelters, said Tom Maloney, Marysville’s fire marshal. To ensure safety, a list of guidelines was written, he added. It included CPR training for at least one person per shift and a fire watch program, which requires volunteers inspect the premise every 15 minutes.
“We’ve taken all the barriers down,” Maloney said.
He didn’t know why the shelter was still closed.
The Damascus Road Church didn’t respond to a message asking for comment.
In Everett, when temperatures dip, almost 50 people pack the Salvation Army’s main room, which throughout the day hosts several different activities. Last year the shelter was open 52 nights and served more than 200 people. With grant funds from Everett and the county, the Salvation Army is able to hire a small staff, who are aided by volunteers, to operate the site.
Andrea Reedy, a pastor for the organization, wants to provide a shelter that’s open every night during the winter season, but she needs a dedicated space.
The smaller weather shelters, in Monroe and Snohomish, host less than 10 people each night.
“We don’t have a huge critical mass in need of shelter,” said Delores Craig, a volunteer at the Monroe and Snohomish locations. “But it’s critical for those people.”
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lizzgior.
More information on all the cold weather shelters in the county can be found at https://tinyurl.com/SnohomishCWS.