OLYMPIA, Wash — With temperatures dropping, Thurston County is spreading the word that it is opening a warming center starting Christmas Day. The county issued a Hazardous Weather Advisory in response to the extreme cold expected next week.
The warming center will be at an old fire hall located at 201 Capitol Way North in Olympia.
"Folks can come in and get out of the cold, get some respite and get some survival gear. Get their needs met," said Olympia Housing Program Manager Darian Lightfoot.
Interfaith Works will operate the center. It will open on Dec. 25 at 3 p.m. and close at 8 p.m. The center will also be open Dec. 26 - 28 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"It's cold," said Lightfoot. "It's going to snow, and there's just not a lot of shelter opportunities in the area."
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However, the warming center doesn't address the dire need for overnight shelter space.
The county has three overnight shelters available at the Union Gospel Mission, located at 413 Franklin St NE in Olympia, for single men and women, Family Support Center’s Pear Blossom Place, located at 837 7th Ave SE in Olympia, for families with children needing shelter, and Community Youth Services, located at 520 Pear St SE in Olympia, for youth ages 18-24. All three overnight shelters are expected to reach capacity.
It's estimated there are more than 1,000 people unhoused in the county, and right now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the county has roughly 300 overnight shelter beds.
To help people weather the overnight cold, the county is looking for volunteers and asking for donations of socks, long johns, underwear, tarps, ponchos, hand warmers, sleeping bags, tents, gloves, mittens, hats, warm clothing, blankets, pillows, as well as coffee, creamer, cups of soup and other snacks.
Donations will be accepted at the two locations and times below:
Lightfoot said the cold highlights how badly the county needs more resources.
"It's not about brick-and-mortar or facilities, it's bodies to be able to staff the shelters," said Lightfoot. "This is what Interfaith was able to operationalize at this time. This is what our service providers have the capacity for."
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