Less shelter beds. More neighbors in need. A warming center is an imperative

At the September 10 City Council meeting, the City Manager called on community members to volunteer and get involved to combat the challenges of homelessness.  Nathaniel Jones agrees, but contends that the City CAN do something- provide the tools and resources to help the community succeed.

We are going into a winter with less shelter beds available than a year ago, yet we have more people on the streets needing a place to go.  At night, our shelter network expands- but there are few places to find refuge during the day. And for our neighbors forced to camp outside, a warm place during the daytime provides both immediate respite and a defense against the next night’s cold.  We would far prefer to provide homes than a warming center. But necessity, not preference, must rule the day. We long for the day when a warming center is unnecessary. Unfortunately, that day has not arrived.

Some have stated we cannot have this ready for winter.  In an emergency, however, we act quickly. Jones says that he does not believe that city government can get the job done without nimble partners.  

He says, “I am calling on my colleagues to join me in supporting a rapid RFP process to invite the private sector, faith community, non-profit community or other community organizations to bring forth proposals to operate a daytime warming center from Thanksgiving through March, approximately 120 days.”  In 2016, we stood up a warming center in less than 45 days.  

He proposes that the City provide an up front mobilization fee, plus a monthly fee for services provided.  Proposals for a single large scale center will be accepted, with capacity for at least 200, as well as smaller proposals with capacity of at least 50.  Proposals with identified viable locations will be prioritized. The City will assist with rapid permitting and staffing for development of a good neighbor plan.  Minimum staffing levels, security requirements, and services provided will be outlined in the coming days. Funds to support this emergency response exist. If we act now and swiftly, we CAN make this happen before winter arrives.