Cities banned from punishing homeless who sleep on public property
As winter sets in, Skagit County is helping fund overnight shelters for the county’s homeless.
“We think everybody deserves a safe warm place to sleep at night,” said Sarah Hinman, behavioral health and housing program coordinator with Skagit County Public Health.
The winter shelter at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Mount Vernon reopened Nov. 9, with a 22-person capacity.
As it did last winter, Friendship House provides transport to the church each evening after dinner at its café, said Tina Tate, executive director of the nonprofit.
Hinman said the county spent about $80,000 running the shelter last winter, and she expects costs to be similar this year.
Tate said her staff isn’t changing much from last winter because of how well it worked for those who make use of the shelter, the church and residents in the neighborhood. Those who used the service were respectful and volunteered to clean the area around the church, she said.
“This is such a needed service,” Tate said. “These are people that are suffering, and we’re going to continue to provide them as much help as possible.”
Skagit County also is providing money to help keep the Anacortes Salvation Army’s overnight shelter open all winter. Normally, the shelter opens when temperatures drop below 30 degrees, said Eric Johnson, president of the Salvation Army’s board of advisers.
He said the shelter plans to open about Thanksgiving and stay open until mid-February.
Johnson said the change will lend some predictability to the service.
“Usually we’d have to say day of if we’d be open for the night,” he said. “It makes a lot more sense to just do it (every night).”
He said the county is providing the shelter $14,000 to keep it open nightly.