MARYSVILLE, Wash. — As thousands are without power in Snohomish County Wednesday, some overnight shelters are seeing a record number of people needing a warm place to stay.
Snohomish County has six overnight cold weather shelters. The shelter at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marysville is filling more beds than ever.
“It has saved some lives. It’s saved me,” said James Dahlquist, who’s staying at the shelter.
The Marysville shelter at Bethlehem Lutheran Church opened in December of 2021 and the location makes it accessible to many.
“This time last year I was hospitalized with hypothermia. They didn’t have anything this close; it was way up on Highway 9,” said Dahlquist.
Since then, Dahlquist has spread the word of a warm place to stay and helped fill the beds.
“A lot of them still stay out there because that’s where they’re from and they’re more comfortable that way, but it makes me feel good about myself that I might have saved somebody,” said Dahlquist.
Tuesday night, the shelter filled a record amount of beds.
“Last night is our biggest night so far with 27, we only have enough beds for 30 so we’re getting close to capacity,” said Nathan Ray, Shelter Coordinator.
Cold weather shelters open when temperatures are expected to drop below 34 degrees.
Marysville’s shelter has opened its doors 20 days this month and expects to fill more than 300 beds just for the month of November. Ray said that’s 100 more than the entire season last year.
This comes at a time when the shelter needs more volunteers.
“It’s been absolutely mind blowing. It’s a little overwhelming at times making sure we have enough staff to be able to open,” said Ray.
Ray said the work is gratifying and critical on extreme cold nights.
“I truly believe we are saving lives with what we’re doing here,” said Ray.
One thing that brings more people in is the shelter is one of the only ones that allows pets.
“If I were to say you can come in but your child can't you’re probably not going to come in. It’s the same thing for our guests coming in with their pets because their pets are their children,” said Ray.
For Dahlquist, who’s now battling cancer, he just wants to make sure others know they have a safe place to stay.
“Karma, and it will come back. I just help out everybody,” said Dahlquist.
Marysville shelter is prepared to have to stay open for up to three weeks before a break.