Letters to the Editor

Cold weather plan is in place for the homeless

I read with interest Alex Gasperi's letter regarding cold weather plans for the homeless (Auburn Reporter, Dec. 13). I'm always encouraged when young people care enough about social issues to express their concerns.

I need to point out though that Auburn does have a plan to provide shelter for homeless people during severe weather. Like most of the cities around us, a shelter is opened when temperatures are predicted to be below freezing for three consecutive nights, or when freezing temperatures are accompanied by snow or ice. There is also flexibility to open it at other times, when it might be needed.

The City contracts this service through the Auburn Food Bank, which actually runs and operates the shelter. The shelter is typically open from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on the nights it is open, though occasionally, as Alex observed, it is sometimes opened later because the space is not available at 9. The shelter was open already this month from Dec. 2-10 and averaged 24 people per night, including some children.

We are actively seeking a larger space to accommodate additional people, as we've had as many as 31 people in the shelter at one time, which is pretty crowded. It is challenging, though, to find a facility able to accommodate that many people, with little notice and for indefinite periods of time, that meets the necessary access and utility requirements.

Information regarding the shelter is published in many places, including on the Auburn Reporter website. The information is also provided to 911, 211, MultiCare Auburn Medical Center, and all of the emergency response organizations in the City, so that they will all know where homeless people can go to find shelter. People can also sign-up to receive this type of information directly from the City via e-mail.

I encourage Alex and other young people to stay involved in issues like this. It takes a whole community to solve issues of homelessness. Though young people don't meet the age requirement to help in the shelter, they and their parents would be welcome to stop by with donations of food or blankets, or maybe even toys for kids who might be staying there.

Anyone with questions should feel free to call my office at 253-876-1925 or contact Debbie Christian at the Auburn Food Bank at 253-334-4860. You can also email the Emergency Management Office at emergencyprep@auburnwa.gov.

– Sarah Miller, Emergency Preparedness manager, City of Auburn

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