TACOMA, Wash. — A cold snap anticipated in Tacoma will trigger an expansion of the number of shelter beds available in the city, but officials said there are still thousands of homeless people who will not make it into shelters during the cold weather.
Gerritt Nyland of Catholic Community Services said there are roughly 6,000 people experiencing homelessness in Pierce County and only 1,000 shelter beds.
Close to 400 of those beds are at the Nativity House shelter in Tacoma. Mike Savoury, the daytime program supervisor for Nativity House, said the shelter has 370 beds available for men and women, but they will not turn anyone away.
Savoury said the number of people seeking beds at Nativity House has swelled since last week when the city of Tacoma shut down People’s Park, where dozens of people were living in tents.
“We have a full house right now,” said Savoury. “Some of them have frostbite on their feet and a lot of health issues.”
But not everyone is gravitating toward shelters. Across the street from Nativity House sits a small cluster of tents, where a handful of homeless people live.
One man who lives there identified himself only as Rasheed said, “The weather, the cold is just horrible. We have to deal with it every day.”
Another man who called himself Kareem said he was one of the people who was forced to leave People’s Park when the city shut it down. He said he would not sacrifice his possessions and privacy to live in the shelter for a couple of days. Instead, he said he would focus on keeping warm by wearing layers, walking and riding his bike.
“It’s good to keep moving,” said Kareem. He said as the bitter cold sets in, he’ll have a plan.
“Use hand warmers and start a fire here or there, depending on where I am.”
Nativity House, the Salvation Army, and the Tacoma Rescue Mission will all have additional shelter beds as long as the temperature remains below 32 degrees.