Sarah Kellems, director of Hood River Shelter Services, and the advisory team have decided to extend the Warming Shelter’s season through next week due to inclement weather.
This was to be the shelter’s last week of operation for the season.
“We’ve only done this twice in the last eight years,” she said Thursday. “It’s not typical. But the weather made it clear that people will need a warm, safe place to sleep.”
Kellems said that contingency weeks are built into the shelter’s yearly schedule for the beginning and end of the season.
At the beginning of this week, she and the advisory team decided to extend the warming shelter’s season into next.
“I asked some volunteers before we made the decision if they’d consider changing (their scheduled volunteer time) if we added a contingency week, and we were able to fill volunteers that way for the morning shift,” she said.
The evening shift — 5:45 to 10:15 p.m. — is also already covered. Overnight shifts are available to fill, but “not at a level I’m concerned about,” said Kellems.
“I’ve had such a supportive response since we hired some overnight staff this winter in a pilot program,” she said. “We’ve been able to reap the benefit of that.”
She’s referring to a new position that has been recently added: A staff member is paid to stay awake during the entire 10:15 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift, which frees up volunteers to fill other slots.
Riverside Grill Chef Mark DeResta took care of the meal portion of the shelter’s service for the extended opening, personally emailing restaurants to see who would be willing to provide meals for the week, she said.
“We have five of the seven days covered and I feel comfortable that we’ll have all the days covered,” Kellems said.
“People really see the need — it’s still snowing, and there’s snow on the ground. We’ve had no negative or unsupportive comments,” she said. “People are relieved, the hospital and health department have expressed that they’re glad we’re open for another week.”
The continued snow is stressful on everyone, she said, with school and work disrupted.
“Then add to that, you don’t have a comfortable home to go to each day. That’s an added stress, and a threat to health and safety,” she said.
“I want to express my appreciation and gratitude to the community — our partners and community members for supporting the shelter and the service we provide.”