As the cold winds arrive and slip through door gaps and window sashes, imagine facing that icy blast with even less protection than a drafty home or poorly heated flat.
There are homeless families and individuals in Hood River who are already fighting that battle - sometimes left completely out in the elements without even a car to shelter in.
According to Pastor Linda Presley, the Hood River Warming Shelter program was created to help those community members and already has a schedule of churches willing to host those in need.
"Last year we served 15 people throughout the winter," said Presley. That number included a family of four.
With this year's tougher economy and rising use of food banks, the number of those needing basic shelter is expected to rise.
Beginning Dec. 4 and opening daily through March 31, the HRWS program will soon be open offering free sleeping accommodations and snacks from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven days a week.
Staffed entirely by volunteers, HRWS is a coalition of community members representing service providers, nonprofits, faith-based communities and local government agencies who have come together to ensure that homeless people have warm and safe shelter during the winter.
The shelter location changes each week and follows a circuit of churches.
"If someone suspects someone of not having a roof over their head, let them know that there is a warm place for them out of the elements. They would receive a light dinner and breakfast for free by showing up at the appropriate site. If they do not know which site it is they can contact the hospital chaplain's office or emergency room to find out," said Presley.
The entire winter schedule is posted following this article. Donations to help cover operating costs may be sent to: HR Warming Shelter at P.O. Box 656, Hood River, OR 97031. HRWS is chartered under the umbrella of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries (GEM) - a nonprofit - and all donations are tax-deductible.
How it works:
People in need of a warm bed may arrive without an appointment or may be referred by an agency or organization.
Regular check-in is offered each day between 6 and 8 p.m. with check-out the following morning by 8 a.m.
Guests can expect to be asked to provide basic identification and to abide by shelter rules and supervising staff requests.
Guests will be offered a free dinner and breakfast.
Each visitor is assigned a sleeping bag and mattress according to gender, with family groups kept together (with some variation depending on facility space).
If no one arrives at the shelter by 8 p.m., the shelter will be closed for the evening. However, local police and emergency room personnel may still request a late check-in for emergency situations until 10 p.m. by phoning site coordinators.
Training for volunteers:
Volunteers are still needed and are asked to attend a training session, be 21 or older and submit a background check. Additional training sessions will be scheduled soon. See website for times.
For more information on any aspect of the HRWS program, or to make an online donation, see the organization's website at: http://hoodrivercares.org.
2011-12 site schedule
Dec. 4-10, Vineyard Christian Fellowship (Ninth and Eugene)
Dec. 11-17, Riverside Community Church (Fourth and State)
Dec. 18-24, Christian Missionary Alliance Church (2650 Montello)
Dec. 25-31, Immanuel Lutheran Church (Ninth and Sherman)
Jan. 1-7, Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Jan. 8-14, Riverside Community Church
Jan. 15-21, Christian Missionary Alliance Church
Jan. 22-28, Immanuel Lutheran Church
Jan. 29-Feb. 4, Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Feb. 5-11, Riverside Community Church
Feb. 12-18, Christian Missionary Alliance Church
Feb. 19-25, Immanuel Lutheran Church
Feb. 26-March 3, Church of the Nazarene (22nd and Belmont)
March 4-10, Vineyard Christian Fellowship
March 11-17, Riverside Community Church
March 18-24, Christian Missionary Alliance Church
March 25-31, Immanuel Lutheran Church