WENATCHEE — First United Methodist Church in Wenatchee has agreed to house the valley’s second cold-weather shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
The shelter will be run by the Women’s Resource Center and funded by a pilot grant program from the Chelan-Douglas Local Homeless Housing Task Force.
The church was one of several identified this fall as possible sites for the pilot program. Then the other churches on the shortlist had to drop out because they weren’t outfitted with fire sprinklers, Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Laurel Turner said Wednesday.
Following state law, the city of Wenatchee made that a requirement for any overnight shelter candidates, Inspection Services Manager Cliff Burdick said Wednesday.
Since it had fire sprinklers, the First United Methodist Church on the corner of Washington and Miller streets made the cut. Then efforts to open the shelter there hit a roadblock when some members of the congregation had reservations about the idea, said church Program Director Tracy Faulkner.
“When we first brought it to the church, there was a lot of questions about what we were actually offering to do,” she said.
Church leadership spent the last few weeks looking into the program and seeing how other United Methodist churches in the Seattle area handled shelter programs, Faulkner said.
Then last Monday church leadership voted to allow the program, she said.
“I think they had a true reaction, their heart of hearts said ‘We really do want to do this,’” Turner said.
WRC is now looking for shelter volunteers and will spend the next couple weeks sorting out the program’s transportation needs, Turner said. They’re planning a volunteer training on Dec. 14 and expect the shelter to open soon after that.
This week WRC also hired a severe weather shelter coordinator who will assist with recruiting and scheduling volunteers, Turner said.
Turner expects the shelter to be open through the end of February and into March if the night temperatures are still cold, she said. It’ll only be open at night, so anyone staying will come in the evening and leave early in the morning.
To start, the shelter will be limited to 10 people and prioritize anyone with children, Turner said.
It’ll be the second overnight cold-weather shelter to open this month. Through the same program, the Holy Apostles Catholic Church in East Wenatchee opened its doors to people experiencing homelessness on Sunday.
The first few nights have been successful, said Gary Steele of the People’s Foundation, which is managing it.
Eight people stayed the first night, then seven on Monday night and six on Tuesday night, he said. It’s also capped at 10 people per night.
“We’ve had a really good group of guys in here,” he said.