Truckee warming shelter for those in need gears for second year

Amanda Rhoades
A look inside the Cold Weather Emergency Warming Center, located at Church of the Mountains in downtown Truckee.
Courtesy Cathie Foley |

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To find out more information about the temporary warming shelter, express concerns or find out how you can help, contact Cathie Foley at

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The emergency warming shelter last year at Church of the Mountains in downtown Truckee was the first of its kind, and it just might become a regular a service for those in need on particularly chilly nights.

Last week, the Truckee Town Council approved an amendment to allow the temporary shelter to operate on an as-needed basis to help protect those without a place to sleep during extreme weather conditions.

Town Manager Tony Lashbrook said the shelter, which only opens during poor conditions like when temperatures dip below 15 degrees, or when more than a foot of snow is expected overnight, opened last year through a temporary use permit.

The amendment approved last week would allow the shelter to open whenever weather conditions permit in the future, rather than requiring an additional permit.

The amendment requires a second reading before the council, followed by a 30-day referendum period before it can go into effect.

“Because of the housing issue, there are a whole lot of people here who try to make it here by sleeping in their car,” said Cathie Foley, coordinator Cold Weather Emergency Warming Center.

When Church of the Mountains (located at 10079 Church St.) started working on the area’s first-ever homeless aid center last winter, Foley said the church hoped to open it earlier in the season when local temperatures really began to drop, but that didn’t happen.

“With the permitting process we had to go through, we weren’t able to open until late December (2015),” said Foley.

She said volunteers also had to worry about raising money to fund the permit’s cost.

Foley said the bulk of the concerns she’s heard about Truckee’s temporary warm room are based on issues and concerns people have heard about the South Lake Tahoe Warm Room.

According to letters published by the Tahoe Daily Tribune, South Shore residents have questioned whether Warm Room users are guilty of neighborhood mail theft, while also blaming them for a perceived strain on other community resources.

The main difference, Foley said, is the Truckee shelter is only open during severe weather events, while South Lake Tahoe’s Warm Room is open nightly during the winter.

“The difference was their warm room, you could call it a shelter, was open 7 days a week,” she said. “The fear with some people was that that’s what we were doing.”

As for Truckee, the shelter at Church of the Mountains only opened also winter when conditions were particularly threatening for people sleeping outside.

Further, Foley said she and the volunteers involved were able to help some of the people who stayed there.

“It’s significantly different, because they couldn’t count on it,” she said. “I can confidently say that nobody came to Truckee because they heard there might be a warming room open.”

Foley said that in the years prior to the warming shelter opening, there were reports of people dying from sleeping outside.

“They’re here whether we help them or not. In the past, there’ve been people who’ve died every year, whether in their car or the post office,” Foley said.

Last year, the shelter served 24 individuals, a family of 4, and 4 dogs, she said.

“In addition to those folks, there’s also a population of people who weren’t served because they weren’t able to get to the shelter or didn’t know if it would be open,” Foley said.

In an effort to keep communication open with neighbors and to address any concerns, Foley is asking for feedback.

“We really want to be a good neighbor with this program and this space,” she said. “Open communication is how we’re going to be able to work together.”

For those with concerns, or those who want to help, Foley can be reached by email at

The second town council reading of the amendment is tentatively scheduled for the Oct. 25 meeting.

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