MONROE, Wash — As winter weather moves through Western Washington, a big concern for many is expected freezing temperatures throughout the week.
Sunday night, overnight cold weather shelters are opening in Snohomish County, and they are planning to stay open through the rest of the week.
New Hope Fellowship in Monroe opened its doors Sunday night to make sure people have a warm place to sleep and a hot meal.
Snohomish County has six overnight cold weather shelters that open when temperatures are expected to be below 34 degrees.
Volunteers at New Hope Fellowship expect 10-15 people to need a place to stay Sunday night. Volunteers said they are now seeing more people showing up earlier into the cold weather season.
“Cold stretches like this that we’re seeing we really don’t see until January or February most seasons,” said Lynsey Gagnon, Executive Director for Volunteer of America Community Resource Centers.
Volunteers of America is operating the shelter in Monroe and another in Snohomish, and with freezing temperatures on the way, they are prepared to stay open for the next 10 days.
They said volunteers are their biggest need, especially at its Snohomish location.
“It’s tiring. It’s night after night and a lot of our volunteers have full-time jobs, have day jobs so they are really rock stars. These are your neighbors, your brothers and sisters who are going through a tough time that just need a place to sleep tonight,” Gagnon said.
A warm place to sleep is a need that’s growing in Snohomish County. There are about 1,200 known homeless people right now in the county. That's more than at any time in the past decade. The county is planning to open more shelter beds at two motels it plans to buy, but until then, places like New Hope Fellowship are critical.
“It’s a matter of life or death. We could and have literally lost people out on the streets out there,” said Gagnon.
For those who can’t volunteer, Gagnon said you can donate winter wear like hats, glove, coats, and socks.