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Warming Shelter returns in November, with changes

The Hood River Warming Shelter is seeking to enrich the quality of life of the homeless in Hood River County and surrounding areas by providing “a safe place to meet the basic human needs of people without shelter during our coldest months: mid-November through mid-March.”

In fall 2010 a group of community leaders met to determine whether there was a need in Hood River for a shelter. There was a resounding “yes” among these leaders as they shared various statistics including the fact that a homeless person was found dead just outside Hood River due to hypothermia.

Within three months we creatively put together a warming shelter on a rotation basis between five local churches and had trained 100 volunteers to operate the shelter from January through March from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. on nights that were below 35 degrees.

GETTING INVOLVED

Persons interested in volunteering need to attend a training session. Past volunteers are encouraged to show up for the second hour to learn some practical skills in conflict management led by Center for Living.

Training dates, times and locations:

n Oct. 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Mid-Columbia Center for Living

n Oct. 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church

n Oct. 26, 9:30-11:30 a.m. at Riverside Community Church

n Attending the volunteer training and volunteering for one of three shifts: 5:45 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; 10:15 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.; or 5:15-7:30 a.m.

Also needed are donations of sleeping bags and warm clothing to Hood River Valley Christian Church Thrift Store, 975 Indian Creek Rd.

Checks should be made out to Hood River Warming Shelter and sent to P.O. Box 656, Hood River, OR 97031.

Under the umbrella of Gorge Ecumenical Ministries the Hood River Warming Shelter operates as a steering committee made up of 10 different individuals representing host congregations, the Hood River County Commission on Children & Families, Oregon Child Development Coalition, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, and the volunteers.

This season the steering committee, at the suggestion of volunteers, has hired a part-time “host” for the warming shelter on faith that monies would come in. A seasoned volunteer, Alan Wiebe, will be on hand five nights a week to better enable us to have continuity between sites and build the quality of life for both volunteers and guests.

Sites this 2013-14 season include Mid-Columbia Center for Living, Riverside Community Church, Immanuel Lutheran Church and Church of the Nazarene. We are in the process of seeking one or more sites to fill in three weeks during the period from mid-November through mid-March.

Most of the committee members are regular volunteers in the program and give of their time and talents to develop and maintain the website, hoodrivercares.org, write grants, handle publicity, and recruit volunteers. We pay an accountant to manage the books and give our trainer a small stipend.

Since 2010 we have changed the months we are open (mid-November to mid-March) and our hours of operation (6 p.m. to 7 a.m.) to meet the needs of the homeless and our volunteers. Once providing only a mattress, sleeping bag and a sandwich, we now are able to offer even more basic needs to our guests, which include a simple evening meal, breakfast, the opportunity to take a sandwich with them, positive social interaction through games and conversation, shower passes, clothes, laundry services, physical exams and referrals to those without health insurance.

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We have been enabled to enrich our guests’ quality of life through the generous donations of individuals and organizations in our community.

Our first donations in 2010 came from youth in the Leos club. Their fundraising efforts each year have provided money for meals. Faith Connections, operated through the Hood River County Commission on Children & Families, gave us our first grant (2010), enabling us to pay the host churches a small amount for utility costs.

Gorge Ecumenical Ministries received a grant from Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital in 2011 to meet needs in our community. The warming shelter received $5,000 of this grant. United Way gave $3,000 toward utility costs in 2012 and will grant $3,200 in 2013-14.

Individuals in the community as well as congregations have given their time and money to support this program. Last year our annual budget was $8,220.

During our first year in operation we had 100 volunteers and our guests represented 118 bed nights. The second year we had 115 volunteers and 63 guests representing 475 bed nights. This past season 130 volunteers worked in one or more of three different evening shifts, or prepared food for our guests. This represents 3,098 volunteer hours.

The quality of life for 47 guests, including men, women and children, were enhanced, allowing for better health and connections with those in our community who could provide further appropriate services. This represents 910 bed nights and approximately 2,000 meals provided over the course of four months. Thanks to Safeway, shelter quests were able to enjoy microwaveable soup last year.

Some of our guests’ quality of life were improved by referrals to the Mid-Columbia Center for Living, to specialist doctors; some were able to be placed in transitional housing through Guided Path in White Salmon.

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