From January 15 through February 15, 2011, Redmond hosted the Eastside Winter Shelter at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center. The purpose of this shelter was to provide a safe place for people who may otherwise be sleeping outside during the winter months when the weather is severe and can be life threatening.
Prior to this time, the Eastside Winter Shelter was activated only when overnight temperatures were forecast to be 32 degrees or lower. Through Redmond’s partnership with the cities of Bellevue, Issaquah and Kirkland, faith organizations and provider agencies Congregations for the Homeless and The Sophia Way, shelter operations were expanded allowing the shelter to open nightly.
In addition to ensuring a safe, warm place to sleep during the heart of the winter, regular operations also provided continuity of services which meant that people in need of a place to sleep knew that there was a place they could go to be indoors. Because many people came to the shelter on a regular basis, there was also more opportunity to build trust and provide resource education and assistance to the shelter residents.
The City’s Human Services Division was overwhelmed by the positive response from the community in support of opening the shelter. Staff received many phone calls and emails expressing support for the City’s role in this effort. Numerous individuals and groups donated food, clothing, money and supplies.
Because the shelter is designed to be a lifeline, residents are not pre-screened. They are required to follow basic rules including not bringing in weapons or drugs and not behaving in ways that would be disruptive to others or to the operation of the shelter. If these rules are broken, residents may need to leave and the police may need to be called. There were some incidents requiring police involvement during the month the shelter operated in Redmond, but on the whole, residents worked together with staff to keep the shelter running smoothly.
The decision to run the shelter every night was based in part on the weather forecasts available at the time which predicted temperatures at 37 degrees or below virtually every night through mid-February. Sufficient funds were reserved to activate for four nights beyond February 15 if the weather conditions warranted it. The temperatures for the week after the scheduled closing date of February 15 were expected to be quite low and the decision was made to keep the shelter open through February 19. It was clear that the severe weather would continue beyond the 19 and staff provided as much information as possible about other resources that might be available in addition to bus tickets for those who needed them.
City staff are already working with an Eastside taskforce to develop an effective response to serving homeless individuals in our community next winter. We know that sufficient resources will continue to be a challenge, and cash donations are most welcome. For information about how to donate, please contact Colleen Kelly at 425-556-2423 or at email@example.com.