After the thaw, will added shelter sites remain open to homeless?

Nov 24, 2010

Bitterly cold temperatures are expected to give way to rain and highs near 40 degrees Thanksgiving Day. In Seattle, the city’s severe-weather shelters have been offering the homeless a warm place to spend the night. But what happens when it thaws?                             

On a normal night, the City of Seattle offers about 1,200 shelter beds – or more typically, sleeping mats on the floor. Those shelters are usually filled to capacity. When the temperature gets below 32 degrees, the city opens temporary severe-weather shelters, with an additional 200 places.

Rick Reynolds of the homeless aid group Operation Nightwatch says that’s a big help. But once the temperature gets back above freezing, those temporary shelters go away.

 “We worry about what’s going to happen when the melt comes,” he says, “because a great number of those people are going to have no other options, and it’s just as miserable at 45 degrees as it is at 25,” Reynolds told KPLU News.

There may be help on the way. City officials say they’re still working out the details, but they expect to make the 75-bed severe-weather shelter at City Hall available through the winter.