The newly opened Warming Center on East Sims Way in Port Townsend has become a welcoming place for those who are looking for a safe, comfortable place to be after the Winter Shelter closes at 8 a.m. From left, Lawrence Alan, Steven Riggs and Ben Casserd had a friendly Monopoly game going Tuesday. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

The newly opened Warming Center on East Sims Way in Port Townsend has become a welcoming place for those who are looking for a safe, comfortable place to be after the Winter Shelter closes at 8 a.m. From left, Lawrence Alan, Steven Riggs and Ben Casserd had a friendly Monopoly game going Tuesday. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Warming Center ‘making a difference’

Facility offers space for when shelter is closed

PORT TOWNSEND — Even though the temperature was in the low-40s Tuesday morning, Port Townsend’s new Warming Center hosted 13 people looking for an inside space to just be.

Some were using the computer, others were reading and playing a friendly game of Monopoly. Others found some sleep.

The project at 1433 W. Sims Way — which was launched Feb. 23 by a consortium of individuals and churches, especially First Presbyterian Church — offers a warm, dry and safe space for those needing a place to be after the Jefferson County Winter Shelter at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St., closes in the morning.

Several of the guests at the Warming Center are from the shelter. Others are drop-ins after a night outside. The center hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. seven days a week and will be in operation for the next 90 days.

Bryan Nash was hired as the center’s paid monitor, a job he does as a volunteer at the shelter. He said the space has hosted its limit of 20 people when the weather was especially cold. The least number of users so far was six.

“This place is working, it’s making a difference,” Nash said. “A few of the homeless are not from the shelter, but the majority are. If they can’t follow the rules, they can’t stay there. We allow them here as long as they don’t drink or do narcotics on the premises.”

Nash said the center cannot accommodate anyone younger than 18 “for liability issues.” He said children are helped though Dove House and other agencies.

Nash believes this Warming Center can help make a difference for those in need. He referred to a woman who died a few weeks ago when she was camping in a tent and the temperatures were bitterly cold.

“She had leukemia, she was not well and had some abuse issues,” Nash said. “She had nowhere to go. I believe her death opened the door for this place.”

Ben Casserd is a backup monitor for the center and is there almost every day. He said he has the funds to rent an apartment, but there is no housing available in the area.

“I use both places,” Casserd said. “The night shelter is a welcoming, warm place where the food is plentiful. This center is a great place for those who need it, especially after the tragedy that happened. It’s a good thing to have it opened.”

Barbara Morey, a housing advocate, who was visiting the center said the clients at the center represent a pool of talent; they are looking for odd jobs.

“Any jobs like a cook or landscaping work, or those entry level positions that pay a reasonable amount of money would be appreciated,” Morey said.

Marilyn Wells said she is a Navy veteran and uses both the shelter and the center daily. She is happy to be a recipient of the community’s generosity.

“I don’t sleep well at the shelter,” she said. “I would like it if there could be a quiet, private space created here with some privacy screens for people who just want to rest or read. I’m thankful for the support.”

Nash said the community has been generous with donations of coffee and a coffee maker, books, games and puzzles, and other items that make the Warming Center a welcoming place.

“If people want to donate, they could consider dropping off clothes, especially socks,” he said. “Individual servings of beverages like apple cider would be appreciated as well.”

Morey said one easy option is to donate Safeway Monopoly Game cards. The center is collecting the cards and they have two boards going. They hope to cash in on a prize that will help fund the program.

“We’re hoping for a big payout,” Morey said.

Donations may be dropped off at the Warming Center during its hours of operation. For more information, go online to www.fpcpt.org and click on the justice tab.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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