Severe-weather shelters open Seattle's mean, cold streets
About 150 homeless people have gone to severe-weather shelters this week.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Christopher Hoyt and James Hatch spent a windy, snowy Monday night in the warm shelter of a church that has been their home for months.
Dan Westmore slept on the street and planned to again Tuesday despite predicted temperatures in the mid teens.
Beyene Paulos and a friend slept in their usual preferred spot on Monday — a University District church doorway — but Paulos admitted he didn't sleep well and was about ready to go to a shelter Tuesday night.
The three were among a dozen homeless people who sat talking, reading or sipping coffee Tuesday morning in the Center House at Seattle Center, a city-designated warming center.
Seattle officials opened severe-weather shelters this week at City Hall, Seattle Center Pavilion near KeyArena and, for women only, the Frye Hotel. More than 150 people stayed Monday night in those and year-round shelters that opened their doors a bit wider than usual, said Dave Takami, a Seattle Human Services Department spokesman.
When gridlocked buses delayed the arrival of Salvation Army staffers to operate the Pavilion shelter, the Center House kept its doors open after-hours for the waiting men and women.
City officials were working with nonprofit providers to ensure there are warm places to go after the temporary shelters close their doors at 6 a.m. or a short time later to make room for regular daytime activities.
"I thought that was great, that they threw a whole bunch of doors open for people. This is life-threatening weather to be out in," said Hoyt, 47, who has stayed at the First United Methodist Church shelter in Lower Queen Anne for more than a year.
For those who don't want to wait in the cold for the Center House to open at 7 a.m., the Family and Adult Service Center in Belltown is opening its day center four hours early this week, at 6.
In Bellevue, 25 men and two women stayed at the Crossroads Community Shelter on Monday night.
David Johns-Bowling, executive director of Eastside-based Congregations for the Homeless, is among social-service providers concerned there aren't enough warm places during the day.
"I already got a call from one of the guys," Johns-Bowling said. "The libraries are closed, what should I do?" the man asked.
But not every homeless person wants a spot in a shelter.
When Bill Hobson, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center, checked on homeless day laborers sleeping in picnic shelters at Seattle's Judkins Park on Monday night and told them they could go to a warm shelter, "They showed irritation that I had woken them up."
Westmore, 65, is a guitar-playing busker who carries a collection of bags and sleeps outdoors in a "cocoon" of sleeping bag, thermal blankets and tarps. "Tarps are the trick," he said, "because they hold in the heat and keep out the rain" — or the snow, which he said didn't bother him Monday night.
Westmore, who once swore by the protective property of garbage bags, said he has no desire to go to a shelter. "I've moved up to the next level," he said, laughing: "first-class tarps!"
But the stakes are high for anyone not finding a way indoors, noted Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute.
For example, she said, "We are very concerned with the number of people who are sleeping in their cars," Lee said. "They may not know how the weather is going to affect them, so I think we may see some tragic situations of people freezing or having serious problems living on the streets this week."
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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