Local nonprofit Family Promise of the Palouse recently agreed to organize a warming shelter in Pullman for those looking to escape the freezing weather overnight.
Pullman City Councilor Nathan Weller said the nonprofit still has to sign a limited lease agreement with the city, but if the council agrees, it will likely be located at the Encounter Ministries building that is currently being renovated into Pullman’s new city hall.
“This is a huge thing for our area, it really is,” Weller said.
The Pullman Police Department lobby served as a warming center last year and this year. A warming center is not a homeless shelter but a space for people to temporarily escape the weather overnight and warm themselves, said Katti Carlson, executive director for Family Promise. She said Family Promise already operates a homeless shelter, so the board of directors felt it made sense to take on a warming shelter.
“It’s a need that has been in our community for many years,” she said.
Carlson said she anticipates it to be more suitable than the Pullman Police Department lobby, which is small and only has a wooden bench to sleep on. Since some of the transient population may have a criminal history, they may not feel comfortable staying there, she said.
Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said the lobby is rarely used, although a man traveling by bus from Idaho to Spokane did spend Thursday night there. Tennant estimated it was used about a half-dozen times last winter. He said it is designated as a warming shelter because the police station is one of the few Pullman buildings open 24 hours, seven days a week.
Carlson said when the Family Promise warming center is open, it will be available from evening until morning when the temperature is under 30 degrees.
With winter on the way, Carlson said the nonprofit wants to get the warming shelter ready to open as soon as possible, and it will likely stay open until the end of January.
Weller said there has been an increase in poverty and homelessness that often goes unseen, and it is beneficial for cities to be proactive rather than reactive in responding to it.
He said a warming shelter has the potential to not just be a temporary refuge for the transient population but a starting point for them to get back on their feet. He said it can be a place where they learn about the resources, nonprofits and job opportunities available to help them put down roots and make a living on the Palouse.
“I want to show them, ‘Hey, look, come and be our neighbor,’ ” Weller said.
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