Overnight shelters open for those in need

Peninsula’s cold snap prompts ‘Blue Flag’

PORT ANGELES — Residents living without roofs over their heads will have access to overnight shelter in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend during the current cold snap.

Serenity House of Clallam County is expanding its overnight services for the homeless under its Blue Flag program, opening the shelter at 2203 W. 18th St. for 24 hours a day until further notice, Executive Director Doc Robinson said.

“The Blue Flag went out this morning,” Robinson said Monday. “That means, basically, the shelter doesn’t close.”

Clallam Transit stops at the shelter, and a Serenity House van picks up clients beginning at about 6 p.m. at 321 E. Fifth St. at Port Angeles City Hall. It will circles back until no one else is waiting for warmth.

“We will be doing extra runs to pull folks in because it’s cold,” Robinson said. “You can’t put people out in this weather.”

He said overall the shelter is averaging 70 clients a night and expects those numbers to approach 100 this week.

“Folks out there are pretty resilient,” he said. “They can stay as long as they need to.

“Right now, they can’t move around in the camps, with the snow, slush and mud.

“There are camping places in every canyon. They’re under every bridge.”

Peninsula Behavioral Health operates the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness program, an outreach effort.

Wendy Sisk, CEO of Peninsula Behavioral Health, said Monday the PATH staff are aware of more than 30 individuals who live in tents in the Port Angeles area.

“The Point In Time Count is coming up this month and will afford a more robust picture of the current homeless population,” Sisk said Monday in an email.

The Olympic Community Action Program (OlyCAP) has homeless services facilities in Port Townsend and Sequim.

OlyCAP also operates a warming center at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave., Sequim, where families can go — and sleep, if they need to and have nowhere else to go.

The facility is open from 9 p.m.-9 a.m. this week, an hour longer than normal.

There are no beds at the church, but no worries, said Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP director of housing and community development.

Clients can stay the night anyway.

“If they fall asleep, they fall asleep in a chair,” she said. “We don’t want anyone freezing to death.”

OlyCAP runs the homeless shelter in the basement of the Marvin G. Shields American Legion Post 26 at 209 Monroe St., Port Townsend, in conjunction with the American Legion and the faith-based Community Outreach Association Shelter Team.

The facility will be open 24 hours a day through Thursday, OlyCAP Executive Director Audrey Morford said.

The Jefferson Interfaith Action Coalition also operates a warming center at 1433 Sims Way across from the QFC plaza. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are no homeless shelter services in Forks, said Ann Simpson, director of Mariposa House, 82 S. Second Ave., formerly Forks Abuse Program.

West End residents who are homeless often drop by the facility to get warm when it’s cold outside, which it hasn’t been until this week, Simpson noted.

“When it gets cold and unbearable, we usually will have up to eight people drop by, and we always feed them,” she said.

“There’s no housing priority for homelessness in Forks at all. It’s been left to really the different groups and organizations to try to do things during the day.

“There’s no evening, nighttime resources for people.”

Mariposa House staff refer people who need shelter to Serenity House.

Simpson said the Forks facility has paid for transportation via Clallam Transit to the Port Angeles shelter.

“Our approach has been to try to generate a conversation in the community here and work with the county commissioners on the homelessness task force and encourage a more thoughtful, planned approach … and try to create a focus on the West End.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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