Heaven Gregg, left, chair of the COAST board, and deForest Walker, executive director of COAST, opened up the winter shelter for its first day of service Wednesday afternoon in Port Townsend. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend winter shelter opens for first day of service

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend’s winter shelter had its first day of service Wednesday afternoon, and people were already lined up and chatting with volunteers before doors opened at the shelter’s location in the American Legion Hall.

The winter shelter, a cooperative service of the Community Outreach Association Shelter Team (COAST) and Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP), opened for its 13th season at the American Legion Marvin G. Shields Memorial Post No. 26 at 209 Monroe St.

The shelter houses men and women older than 18 from the beginning of November until April 1. Guests are expected to show up between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily, but deForest Walker, executive director of COAST, said she encourages people to show up as close to 4 p.m. as possible.

“We’re first-come, first-served, and if they want to stay, they must be here between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.,” Walker said. “It’s just so we don’t go over our occupancy.”

The space can be occupied by only 48 people, including volunteers, with 30 beds available.

While the shelter is first-come, first-served, volunteers do give priority to veterans, senior citizens, people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence.

The shelter doesn’t require people to be clean and sober, but, according to Walker, no drugs or alcohol are allowed in the shelter or on shelter property.

“We do want to warn folks that if they do appear too inebriated or intoxicated to follow our house rules or move through the shelter safely, they will be asked to leave,” Walker said.

“Or they just won’t be admitted.”

The winter shelter is open from 4 p.m. until 8 a.m., when guests will have to leave each day.

While the winter shelter is operated annually by COAST, OlyCAP did start a new year-round shelter out of the same location that opened for the first time April 10 of last year.

The two organizations will continue to partner for the winter months, while OlyCAP will remain responsible for the shelter for the rest of the year.

Kathy Morgan, housing director for OlyCAP, said in an interview in March that a year-round shelter just wasn’t an option for COAST.

The OlyCAP shelter, known as Shelter Plus, focuses on vulnerable populations in the area and is a clean and sober shelter that also offers housing assistance through OlyCAP in an effort to get those guests into permanent housing before the winter months.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.