Warming shelter provides meals, warmth for Truckee’s homeless
With winter in full force Truckee’s Emergency Warming Shelter is gearing up to care for those who may find themselves without shelter on a below-freezing, snowy night.
Last winter, over the course of 40 days of operation, the shelter accommodated 50 individual guests and five dogs, according to Cathie Foley, the Emergency Warming Center coordinator.
“People can die outside in the cold,” said Foley. “When the 2015 homeless count came back and we realized that on a really terrible night in January there were 50 people who were sleeping outside.”
In February of 2015, Nevada and Placer counties facilitated a homeless count in which they counted 51 individuals without shelter in area. That same year a subgroup of United for Action, a coalition of faith-based and nonprofit groups formed a partnership with Church of the Mountains — which hosts the shelter at 10069 Church St. — to get approval of a temporary use permit from the Truckee Planning Commission.
“United for Action took it upon themselves to make sure in a very wealthy community we should be able to take care of each other,” said Foley.
This year, the shelter is going into its fourth season of operation and marks the first year the shelter is no longer in a pilot stage and can now operate with a minor use permit from the town. The shelter serves those who are 18 years or older and is only open on nights of severe weather, in which temperatures drop below 15 degrees or there is more than a foot of snow in the forecast.
Foley said guests are allowed to stay as long as severe weather persists. Last season the shelter was open for 40 days, at one point operating for 16 days straight.
“We made it happen but it took a lot of volunteers,” said Foley, who noted last year 335 volunteers helped run the shelter including donating meals supplies and finances to make the project successful. In addition they expanded part-time staff to include a shift supervisor to oversee the operations overnight.
The shelter is open from 6 p.m to 7 a.m. and fits a maximum of 16 guests with a rotation of at least eight trained volunteers.
Of the 50 individuals who sought out shelter last season, Foley said 20 were chronically homeless.
Not only does the organization provide shelter, but it also serves to provide opportunities to those with nowhere else to turn. This can come in the form of sleeping bags, warm clothes or necessary supplies to survive on their own or assistance with permanent solutions. Foley said they would help people reconnect with their family, place them in long-term shelters in South Lake Tahoe or, in the case of one guest last year, help place them in an alcohol treatment program.
“After we spend time with people, it starts to become an opportunity where you can help them with long-term solutions,” said Foley.
In order for the shelter to open and remain open, Foley said, it must be staffed by trained volunteers. Those interested in volunteering can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-550-2652.