The new warming shelter in The Dalles has been full since its opening in early November, and while they started off without electricity, they do now and The Dalles City Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss reports that operations have been going well with no major problems.
The six 8-by-8 foot Pallet shelters each house two people with social distancing measures in place, for a total of 12 guests. Long-Curtiss has set up a waiting list in case the shelter is able to get more units.
All of The Dalles Winter Warming Place’s current guests also utilize laundry and shower services at St. Vincent De Paul, said Long-Curtiss.
St. Vincent Executive Director Dave Lutgens has been bringing St. Vincent’s meals to guests at the shelter so they don’t have to trek up to St. Vincent’s location on the other side of town during bad weather, and The Dalles Community Meal has also been bringing food to guests after they’re done serving at the St. Vincent’s meal site.
Unlike the warming shelter in Hood River, The Dalles Winter Warming Place is open all day and its 12 guests are allowed to leave their belongings while they go out to appointments and look for work.
“It gives people a sense of stability to know they have a place to come home to and can leave their stuff and it’s going to be dry,” said Long-Curtiss. “People are just more relaxed and want to take care of things they’ve been putting off.”
Shelter staff will reassign a guest’s spot if the guest is absent for two nights or more without communicating with staff.
One of the caveats for staying at the shelter is that guests work with shelter staff to find a permanent housing situation; if a guest finds a new housing situation, they’ll move out of the shelter, and shelter staff will clean their space for a new guest.
The shelter’s guest agreement, developed by Long-Curtiss and City Manager Julie Krueger, lays out ground rules for guest behavior towards shelter staff, volunteers fellow guests, neighboring businesses and the surrounding businesses, with a clause that inappropriate behavior is grounds to being asked to leave the site on a temporary or permanent basis.
Guests are assigned a space in one of the Pallet shelters and given a sleeping bag or blanket and pillow, along with a “welcome kit” with some basic supplies, including hand sanitizer.
The site is monitored at all hours from an RV on site, staffed by Long-Curtiss and a rotating shift of three volunteers.
While there were initial health and safety concerns with sharing the RV, Long-Curtiss says those issues have been resolved, and the shelter is in need of more volunteers to help cover shifts.