While community leaders say there is interest and a need to create a warming center for the homeless in Pullman, there is no plan to establish one this winter.
Last year, with the assistance of Family Promise of the Palouse, a warming center was set up in the former church building on Crestview Street that will become the new Pullman City Hall.
A warming center is a place for someone to escape the cold weather and sleep inside for the night.
City Councilor Nathan Weller, who is chairman of the Poverty Awareness Task Force, said Family Promise of the Palouse recently underwent a change in leadership and will not be able to take on a warming center this winter.
He said there has been interest from local religious organizations and the Community Action Center about pursuing a warming center, but there are no concrete plans at this point.
“Maybe as the season goes on there will be some organization that steps up,” he said.
The Rev. Steve Van Kuiken of the Community Congregational United Church of Christ said his church was involved in last year’s warming shelter, and creating a new one is at the top of the religious community’s priority list.
He said emergency shelter for the homeless is a year-round problem that is exacerbated by the cold weather and lack of available facilities regionally.
Weller said homelesseness is a growing problem locally. The councilor said he received two phone calls and one Facebook message this past week from people asking if there is a warming center available.
Weller and Van Kuiken said the best option for people to help the homeless find emergency shelter is by making a contribution to the Community Relief Fund. The fund will pay for a hotel room or bus fare to a city where the person has a place to stay. People can donate to the fund on the Community Action Center website.
Weller said last winter’s warming center was not used often, but it did receive much support from volunteers and through donations of food and supplies.
He recounted the story of a military veteran who showed up to the warming center on Christmas Eve wearing flip-flops.
Weller said the man was able to sleep at the warming center overnight and get information about housing assistance for veterans.
Weller said at least 60 people, including Washington State University and University of Idaho students, offered to help at the center.
Weller said the wide support for last year’s warming center “speaks volumes” about the desire to have one available.
“We are better suited than ever before to help those people in need,” he said.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.