With overnight temperatures dropping into the low-teens or below, the Salvation Army hopes Spokane volunteers will step forward to help staff its warming center this year as the program expands to offer homeless individuals accommodations on any night below freezing.
Steve Ball, a corps officer with Salvation Army, says the shelter has pledged to open its gym for overnight stays anytime the forecast calls for temperatures below 32 degrees. But that could drive openings from a couple dozen to more than 100 nights this winter season, so they need volunteer monitors.
"That's our biggest need right now — manpower," he says. "We sure need some backup."
The warming center requires five people to staff shifts from 7 pm to 1 am, and from 1 am to 7 am. Salvation Army staff can manage the operation, but Ball hopes the community can provide some help with monitoring and cleaning. Right now, the staff is spread thin with workers staying overnight multiple nights a week.
"It's very hard on a few people," he says.
The Salvation Army, located at 222 E. Indiana Avenue, offers space for up to 100 people with areas for single men, single women and families. Ball says the shelter has hosted close to 60 guests during the last two nights of frigid weather. Doors open at 7 pm and people can come in throughout the night.
"Anybody can come in regardless of their condition," he says, noting there are rules for conduct and contraband, but an intoxicated person can stay if they do not disturb other guests.
We previously wrote about the warming centers during a cold snap in December. Ball says the center expects to be open many more nights this year, which he hopes will reduce weather-related injuries to people on the street as well as reducing citywide calls for police and fire services.
More information about the program and volunteering can be found here.