Overnight temperatures are predicted to fall below 35 degrees tonight, which means the emergency shelter at the First United Methodist Church in Aberdeen will open its doors for the homeless, providing a warm place to sleep and a couple of meals before sunrise.
The shelter, located at 100 E 2nd Street, opens at 6 p.m. and the church is cleared of overnight occupants by 8 o’clock the next morning. This month alone, the shelter was open eight consecutive evenings because of night-time cold.
“The first time we opened was when we had that giant storm,” said Emily Nilsson, the program director for the shelter, about the first overnight event in mid-October. The shelter has been open 14 times during the winter months.
Members of Revival of Grays Harbor, a group of volunteers who have been helping homeless people in Aberdeen since this past summer, work together with volunteers from throughout the community — which includes a significant number of local homeless people. The church provides the space.
“These are people with nothing themselves,” she said about the volunteers who themselves are homeless.
The United Methodist Church has quickly become the only regular emergency shelter in Grays Harbor County because of its temperature guidelines for opening. Law enforcement officers have been dropping off some people they find trespassing out in the cold — even from locations outside of the Harbor area, Nilsson said.
Nilsson added as many as 35 people arrived one night seeking assistance.
“So far, we haven’t turned anyone away,” she said. “More and more people are learning it’s safe.”
Some of the people who come to the church aren’t there to stay overnight, but only to eat and get warm. Doors are locked around 11 p.m.
Announcements are made about the shelter on Nillson’s Facebook page as well as that of Revival of Grays Harbor, at the public library, and at some other locations. Volunteers also scour areas where area homeless people are known to be camping. (Note: This information has been updated since originally published).
And “word travels fast on the street,” Nilsson explained.
People seeking to stay at the shelter must adhere to specific protocol. Violent behavior and the use of intoxicating substances will not be tolerated.
Couples are welcome. Youths must be accompanied by their legal guardians to enter the shelter and must sleep in separate areas away from the adults.
While the outpouring of support from the community has been heartwarming, the shelter needs further assistance. People interested in donating food, warm clothing, hygiene products, blankets and, of course, their time and effort, are asked to contact Nilsson at (360) 589-6186.