Number, services of county cold-weather shelters insufficient

As of Jan. 14, as night temperatures are in the teens, our Snohomish County website lists five “cold weather shelters.” Five shelters with a part-time, couple-of-beds-here, couple-of-beds-there approach to serve a county nearing 1 million over 2,200 square miles at 48 degree latitude. Inconceivable.

Last year’s Homeless Point-In-Time Count was 1,200, but anyone who gets around knows the true count is much higher. I challenge County Council members to picture in their minds — if they won’t visit the streets and woods — the very real horror of thousands of undernourished, frightened women, children, people with disabilities, and other marginalized folks desperate to avoid hypothermia: frostbite on fingers and toes (incredibly painful), lack of coordination, impaired judgment and vision, slowed breathing and death.

Any of us can lose shelter in the blink of an eye: through medical debt, unlawful evictions, layoffs, untreated mental illness, domestic violence, natural disaster, racial discrimination, or the rigged housing market. We must begin now to increase the quality and quantity of response to extreme weather of all kinds, because it’s only going to worsen with climate change.

Snohomish County’s lack of cold-weather shelters says “we don’t care” oud and clear. Do better my county, do better.

Erin Stewart

Snohomish County

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