Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter is Closing
Post Date: March 6, 2023
The Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter will close for the season and permanently in its current format on Friday, March 10th. This marks the end of services offered through a unique partnership between the City of Shoreline, the North Urban Human Services Alliance (NUHSA) and St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church that has provided cold-weather emergency shelter for the unhoused in Shoreline and North King County since 2019.
The Shelter had been a vision for many in our community for some time, and the urgency escalated after severe weather impacted our region in February 2018. In response, NUHSA convened a series of meetings with over twenty area community leaders and providers throughout the spring and summer of 2019, and in partnership with the City of Shoreline, created the infrastructure for providing a severe weather response. Volunteers were recruited and trained, and during its first season (December-March), the Shelter was activated on 14 nights with 2-11 guests each time.
Since then, and as word has spread, the number of guests has increased, along with the number of nights meeting activation criteria. The threshold for activation is a prediction of four-plus hours of temperatures at or below 33 degrees overnight or snow accumulation (or expected accumulation) of 2 or more inches. During this past season (November 1 through March 6), the Shelter has been open 25 nights and served up to 14 guests each time. Incredibly, 168 individuals have been served at least once by the Shelter just this winter.
This season, however, a larger share of guests have presented with more behavioral health and medical challenges, a likely result of the shifting landscape with fentanyl. Experience indicates that a successful shelter requires a higher level of paid, professional staffing than can be provided strictly with volunteers. With the creation of the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA), there is an opportunity to address emergency shelter in a more systemic and coordinated way that also more adequately serves our homeless neighbors. NUHSA looks forward to supporting KCRHA, along with our North King County cities, in developing a more robust and sustainable severe weather response for the 2023-24 winter season and beyond.
The following individuals and organizations were instrumental in the creation and success of the Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter and deserve significant recognition: Colleen Kelly and Bethany Wolbrecht-Dunn, City of Shoreline; Lisa Surowiec, Volunteer Coordinator & former NUHSA Board Member; Rev. David
Marshall and the congregation at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church; Pastor Kelly Dahlman-Oeth, Ronald United Methodist Church; Carrie Czarnecki, Ian Williams and Stanley Machokoto, current and former Outreach Leads for Lake City Partners; and Silje Sodal, Rob Beem and Heidi Shepherd of NUHSA. The community also stepped up in important and powerful ways, spreading the word and donating sleeping bags and other necessities.
Most importantly, the 45 current and former volunteers who graciously and generously donated their time to make the Shelter a reality deserve our deepest appreciation. Volunteers came from many different backgrounds - retired and working, parents and singles, male and female. They endured sleepless nights and demonstrated extraordinary interpersonal and de-escalation skills, all the while expressing gratitude for being able to meet and help our unsheltered neighbors. These wonderful individuals displayed immense compassion and made it possible for others to be comfortable for a few short hours.
Each activation night, two volunteers arrived in the evening to set up the shelter space, welcome guests, offer hot coffee and cocoa, along with some snacks, and then oversee the shelter until morning. An Outreach Lead from Lake City Partners assisted for a couple of hours in the evening and again in the morning to connect guests to resources and distribute bus passes and other materials.
In the end, the Shelter is not about numbers, agencies or buildings – it’s about people. The guests served were diverse – young, old, male and female. Working and not. With and without disabilities. With possessions and with nothing. The one thing they had in common was a desire to get out of the elements (or vehicles) and into a warm, dry and welcoming space for the night – and within the warmth of the Shelter, they were able to, even just for a short time, share resources and stories, chat, sleep and rest.
A reception will be held in the coming weeks to recognize our volunteers and partners and celebrate four years of successfully providing shelter for our unhoused neighbors. More details to come soon!
For further information, please contact Silje Sodal, NUHSA (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 206-550-5626.