Suzanne DeMasso of Windermere Real Estate, left, and Julia Cochrane of the Interfaith Action Coalition discuss the three-month lease of a Sims Way commercial space that will be a Warming Center for 20 people. The Warming Center will open Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and will be in operation seven days a week. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Suzanne DeMasso of Windermere Real Estate, left, and Julia Cochrane of the Interfaith Action Coalition discuss the three-month lease of a Sims Way commercial space that will be a Warming Center for 20 people. The Warming Center will open Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and will be in operation seven days a week. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

Warming center to open in Port Townsend on Saturday

PORT TOWNSEND — A new warming center will be opened Saturday in Port Townsend to provide a place for 20 people needing a place to stay during the daytime over the next 90 days.

Julia Cochrane with the Jefferson Interfaith Action Coalition said that the storefront at 1433 West Sims Way will be available seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The lease was signed Thursday and the program is being funded through donations.

Cochran said it will cost about $9,000 and the group is trying to raise about $4,000.

All the money will go to pay staff, rent, utilities, Wi-Fi and phone.

“We are asking for money,” she said.

“The Presbyterian Church gave a chunk of money, and other churches have stepped forward. Some individuals are giving, too, and one individual gave $1,000.”

This project began when the need became apparent a few months ago.

“When the Boiler Room closed last year, I realized the homeless had nowhere to go at eight in the morning,” Cochrane said. “I approached the interfaith group, specifically Elisabeth Heiner and the Rev. Paul Heinz of the First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend.”

The three made calls and spoke with all of the faith-based organizations in the area and began to plan for a temporary warming center.

“The shelter closes at 8 and poof, they go out into the cold,” Cochrane said. “They traditionally would go to the Boiler Room which is two blocks away. I hoped we could exist in the abandoned Boiler Room while it was for sale but that was too complicated.”

Cochrane said that the group contacted real estate agent Michelle Sandoval “and asked for help with a business that would be friendly to a warming center. She helped and found us a place.”

Cochrane said the group has been on the journey for at least three months.

“With the recent snow scene, the winter shelter announced they would be open until Feb. 15 [today] 24/7 for anyone who wanted to come in,” she said. “So we picked the 16th as our opening date.”

The winter shelter at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St., will remain open until April 15, but not for all day long. It will revert to regular hours of 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. unless another freeze occurs.

The warming center will have one paid monitor that Olympic Community Actions Programs (OlyCAP) is helping to locate and one volunteer monitor.

“We’ll have Wi-Fi, a phone, heat, coffee, books, tables and chairs and a restroom,” Cochrane said. “There is no kitchen, but we know the homeless from the shelter will show up with their brown paper bag lunches. Eating will happen there. There will be books and games as well.

“We’re also welcoming service providers like VetConnect.”

Cochrane said that because Jefferson Transit does not operate on Sunday, the group is looking for someone to offer to transport people from the shelter to the center with a van or bus in the morning.

The group is creating a Gofundme site. Checks can be written to the Warming Center and mailed to the First Presbyterian Church of Port Townsend, 111 Franklin St. Port Townsend, WA 98368. Cash donations may be dropped off at the church.

For more information or to make a donation online, go to www.fpcpt.org and click on the “justice” tab.

Cochrane has more information on her public Facebook page at www.facebook.com/julia.cochrane.

________

Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com

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