Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MWVCAA's Cold Weather Shelter 2016-2017

This winter, Salem continues a cherished holiday tradition: the frantic search for shelter for citizens threatened by freezing weather.

Guests Prepare to Depart 770 Commercial St Ctr on 12/15

Salem Forecast for December 13 through December 17, 2016

It's not as if anyone could have known this would happen.

This winter's tale begins December 5, with the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency's announcement that a warming shelter for veterans would be opening the following night, if they could secure enough volunteers.

When questioned, CAA staff said no one seeking shelter would be turned away, regardless of their "veteran" status.

The tale continues with John Olivera, owner of Steeles Karate, opening the doors to his gym at 860 High St. NE, at 3 p.m. last Tuesday, December 7, to those who needed shelter from the cold, and with a guest of UGM, complaining to the Fire Marshall about the crowded conditions at the Mission (capacity ~180, with overflow capacity for an additional ~90).
John Olivera at City Council on 12/12

We don't know what UGM does after the Fire Marshall tells them, reportedly, there are problems with their guest accommodations.  (Update 12/23/16 - per Fire Chief Niblock, the overflow capacity was limited to 28.)  Presumably, UGM begins limiting the number of overnight guests allowed to stay at the Mission, leaving many nowhere to go except Steeles Karate.  In any event, the night of December 8, Mr. Olivera shelters 120 guests at his gym.

The Salvation Army and other members of the community begin pitching in, like they always do, and Mr. Olivera, reportedly, begins calling on churches in the downtown area to open their doors to those needing shelter.

On December 9, the Statesman Journal publishes an article that's critical of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency's decision to open its church-based overnight shelter only under limited circumstances [see 12/8 announcement below].  Pressure from the community begins to rise, as it did last year

Laura Perez, FCUCC, at City Council
The weekend of December 10/11, the national weather service predicts freezing temperatures and a wintry mix of precipitation will begin the middle of the following week.  Also about this time, the churches in line to host MWVCAA's overnight shelter discover they are scheduled to host homeless families through the Salem Interfaith Hospitality Network "over the next couple of weeks."  Those churches tell MWVCAA, and later the City Council, that they cannot host the MWVCAA overnight shelter in the coming weeks. 

Enter the Salem City Council.  On Monday, December 12, the Salem City Council passes and moves to second reading Ordinance Bill 26-16, which, basically, allows weather events to be considered emergencies, and allows the City to open and operate something called "mass shelters" on City-controlled property in conjunction with a Declaration of Weather Event Emergency.  Read the staff report here.

At this point (Tuesday, December 13), a "weather event emergency" will begin tonight at 6p, and the plan is to open, by tomorrow night, two shelters at the "O'Brien Site" at Liberty and Division, which the City leases in the hope it will one day build a new police facility there.  UGM is to operate one shelter, and MWVCAA (referred to as "Community Action Network" in the Declaration) is to operate the other.
1/2/17 Update: 770 Commercial St Warming Ctr

Statesman Journal coverage of last night's City Council action.

In case anyone's interested, no, the Homeless Task Force never discussed this chronic crisis situation.

This post will be updated as information becomes available.

Update 12/14/16: MWVCAA announced last night that two shelters were being "activated" --  one at the former Delon BMW (pictured at top and above right) and the other at the First Christian Church (pictured below), where CANDO holds its regular monthly meetings.  No information was given as to whether the population  (e.g., men, women, minors) would be limited at either shelter (see excerpt of earlier MWVCAA announcement below). 
Clarification in case it's needed:  the Salvation Army Lighthouse Shelter, like UGM, has always stretched its capacity during weather events, and continues to do so.

Update 12/15/16: Guests departing both shelters as snow was falling reported having had a good night (except for people talking), with around 30 guests total at each shelter.  Photos added. 

Update 12/16/16: The Statesman Journal reports that the Commercial St shelter had 40 guests and the church had 38, supported by >60 volunteers, and that neither reached capacity.  (FCC's capacity is 40, don't know about Liberty St.)  Both facilities have crates for guests' animals.  The newspaper also reported that Yellow Cab offered to and did pick up without charge volunteers needing safe transport.  Total snowfall in Salem was around 5".  The initial call for volunteers was for 8-10 per shift at the Liberty St shelter, and 24 per shift at FCC.  The call for the Liberty St shelter was later changed to 27 per shift.  The temp was 19 degrees F at 5 am, with 32 degrees F the expected high for the day, which is predicted to be sunny.

Update 12/18/16: Both shelters opened last night (Saturday) and will be open again tonight.  There has been very little melting as temperatures remained at or below freezing, but rain and above-freezing temperatures are predicted for the rest of the week, beginning tomorrow.

Update 12/28/16: MWVCAA reported the following:

Total Unique Guests: 187
* 91 at First Christian
* 96 at Commercial St

Total Pets: 11
* 1 dog at First Christian
* 7 dogs and 3 cats at Commercial St

Total Nights of Shelter: 187 people stayed 342 nights
* 26 guests stayed 4 nights
* 17 guests stayed 3 nights
* 47 guests stayed 2 nights
* 93 guests stayed 1 night


* At First Christian = 97 volunteers gave 580 hours
* At Commercial St = 78 volunteers gave 511 hours

Below is the update that MWVCAA issued December 8.

First Christian Church on 12/15 am - Entrance to Shelter

Update 12/28/16:  Another MWVCAA Warming Center was activated for New Years Day 1/1/7 thru 1/4/17. The center will be the DOE building between Cinebarre and the First Christian Church.

Update 1/2/17: The Statesman Journal is reporting that the MWVCAA warming center will be open through 1/5/17, and that its hours were set to coincide with meal service at UGM.

The City's leased property at 770 Commercial street has been given over to UGM as an overflow shelter to make up for the beds lost when Fire Chief Niblock told them on 12/23 that they couldn't expand beyond 208 guests.

Forecast for Friday 1/6/17 thru 1/9/17

Update 1/6/17: The MWVCAA warming center is set to run through Friday (tonight).  

Forecast for 1/10 thru 1/13

Update 1/9/17: MWVCAA's announced today it's activating another warming center, beginning Wednesday night 1/11 to run through Friday night.  Tuesday's predicted low is 29, with rain/snow expected.  Unclear why that's not cold enough to warrant activation.

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