SEQUIM — The Sequim Community Warming Center is in need of a new home before cold weather returns.
Jean Pratschner, the warming center’s manager, said the Serenity House Resource Center at 583 W. Washington St., which housed the warming center for free last year, can no longer accommodate it.
“The situation changed in that we lost our accommodations at Serenity House,” Pratschner said.
Serenity House staff plan to move the Sequim Resource Center and put the space it now fills to other uses, said Doc Robinson, director of Serenity House.
“We told them [warming center organizers] they that they have to find another place to host it,” Robinson said.
The warming center, which began in December 2017, operates through March. It is open only on severely cold nights of 36 degrees or below in temperature. Last year, Pratschner said the warming center served an average of seven people per night and was open a total of about 50 nights from December through March.
Pratschner said the community was very generous with donations last year. It costs about $150 per night to open the shelter to cover the cost of one paid staff member to work a 10-hour shift which covers minimum wage, benefits and insurance.
“Every day people were so generous and we want to keep that impetus,” she said.
“I can’t do this alone and I need help; I need the community to support [the warming center] and I know it can do that.”
Pratschner said this year the warming center is looking to expand to a bigger space. She is hoping for a place that is anywhere from 1,000-to-2,000-square feet that can hold at least a 10-by-10-foot space for a small kitchenette to heat food, a 30-by-20-foot area for a general seating area and storage for warm clothes, blankets and other supplies. She also said the space needs to have a bathroom, electricity and lights.
It needs to be away from residential areas and public offices if possible, since the center operates at night and through the early morning, and must be ADA accessible. Pratschner also is requesting a means of transport if individuals need it to access the warming center.
“We were so successful last year and helped so many folks to stay warm and, hopefully alive, during the worst cold nights,” she said in an email.
“We served 171 folks who might otherwise have been in serious hypothermic danger and hungry, but when the need came up, Sequim citizens really came forward to make the center a success. Now we need to find a new place to operate the warming center.”
If the center is able to find a home and open this year, Pratschner said the center would be open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on severely cold nights tentatively starting at the end of October or in November.
The center was able to run last year by donations and volunteers from the Sequim community with help from Serenity House, which allowed the warming center to use the space for free. Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) also sponsors the center and each shift includes a paid OlyCAP employee with one volunteer to run the center at all times.
Pratschner said ideally the warming center could afford to pay up to $100 a month for a space covered by OlyCAP. She said the warming center could share a space with a business or organization that has a conference room or large area for seating.
The warming center last year served a variety of people, Pratschner said, from homeless individuals to families to travelers passing through the area. The center is not for sleeping, Pratschner said, but strictly a place where individuals can get warm and have a hot drink or meal.
“We’re here to keep people warm,” she said. “We want people to come in and stay alive.”
Pratschner said the warming center is accepting monetary donations, canned nonperishable food, warm clothing, blankets, camping supplies, as well as volunteers to sign up for at least one night to help run the center.
Trained employees/volunteers will check individuals wanting to use the warming center for drugs, weapons and dangerous animals at the door for safety.
Donations can be mailed to OlyCAP at 823 Commerce Loop in Port Townsend, 98368, addressed to the “Sequim Community Warming Center.”
For more information on volunteering or donating, contact Jean Pratschner at 505-264-0278 or email [email protected]
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].