Warming centers reach capacity as Spokane’s homeless escape frigid temperatures

Warming centers reach capacity as Spokane’s homeless escape frigid temperatures
Copyright 2019 KXLY.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.

Bitter cold temperatures are taking a toll on the hundreds of people in Spokane who don’t have a warm place to call home. Lows of zero degrees have sent Spokane’s homeless flocking to warming centers across the city.

Volunteers at the Ermina center, run by The Salvation Army, say it takes just 30 minutes to reach the shelter’s 120-person capacity.

“What they’re facing out there is indescribable,” said Kristine Ruggles, director of operations and business for The Salvation Army. “This February has just hit us really hard, so you can imagine what it’s like for those trying to sleep outside.”

Luckily, for a few hours every night, they’ve been able to escape the cold. Since its opening on Jan. 9, the Ermina center has served 655 individuals. Of those are 377 people between the ages of 41 and 80.

The winter weather even led The Guardians Foundation to open its Cannon center 24 hours a day last month. Volunteers weren’t expecting their extended hours to last as long as they have.

“We’ve been at capacity all winter long,” said Guardians executive director Mike Shaw. “The pressure on the numbers lately have been obviously a component of the weather.”

Though Shaw believes some people have become too dependent on the shelter — making close quarters even tighter.

“It would be a wonderful thing to see them out there everyday in front of the agencies that can help them as opposed to just utilizing the facilities and putting pressure on the warming facilities,” said Shaw. “The sense of urgency… We’re not seeing a lot of that, to be honest with you.”

As the city’s warming centers are set to close at the end of the month, Shaw, Ruggles and the rest of their volunteers are doing everything in their power to make a difference and the people they serve are wondering what will happen next.

“They’re okay with going back under the bridge, but we’re not okay with them going back under the bridge,” said Ruggles. “We’re here, really to lend a hand and help them to find worth within themselves and say, ‘you know, it can be different.'”

“It’s obviously a need, or else the capacity, we wouldn’t be at capacity,” said Shaw. “So, as long as there’s a need, the Guardians foundation will stand ready to fill any hole necessary.”

There is still some hope for these centers and the people staying at them every night — there’s a chance, depending on the weather, the city’s warming shelters will stay open past the end of the month.

Catch up on the day’s news and look ahead to tomorrow by signing up for the Daily Local email newsletter from KXLY4. Headlines, events, and staff picks every weeknight at 8 p.m. Sign up HERE to get your news on the D.L.