Cold Weather Shelter Helps Homeless and Seeks Volunteers

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Cold Weather Shelter Helps Homeless and Seeks Volunteers

Afton Prater, Staff Reporter

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The annual Cold Weather Shelter is up and running again in Ellensburg. From mid-November to mid-March, the shelter will be hosted at seven different churches in Ellensburg, opening at 7 p.m. and closing at 7 a.m. daily. With chilly winter nights upon us, the shelter provides the homeless with warm meals and a safe place to sleep.

FISH Food Bank Cold Weather Shelter Coordinator and CWU alumnus Benjamin Harbaugh said working with the shelter has made a positive impact on him and the community. He told a story about a woman who came into the shelter suffering from mental illness, which is a very common part of the homeless experience for many people. The shelter provided her with a warm place to stay, food and further connections to help in the valley.

“It was just really clear that if we weren’t there that night, we don’t know what would’ve happened to her, so those are the kind of experiences that make it all worth it,” Harbaugh said.

The Cold Weather Shelter provides two meals per stay for guests, including a warm dinner and a microwaveable breakfast. Harbaugh also added that making the meals nutritious is part of their goal.

The shelter receives help from the Ellensburg community, along with HopeSource, WorkSource, InTrust and many other organizations that  periodically come to the shelter to interact with the guests and help them take their next steps towards better lives, according to Harbaugh.

The Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE) at CWU encourages students to volunteer to make food for the guests at the shelter from 2 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday. Nola Longacre, event coordinator with CLCE, explained that after meeting in the SURC, volunteers go down to The FourSquare Church to help prepare soups and sandwiches that guests enjoy later that night. In order to be a volunteer, one must have a food handler’s permit and go through training.

Longacre explained that after being a part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), she wanted to continue helping the homeless and started the CLCE volunteer program at the Cold Weather Shelter to bring extra support to the cause.

Tiffany Metzger, who is formerly homeless and currently volunteers with the shelter, talked about how she enjoys giving back to the community and tries to make each night volunteering as normal as possible.

“Almost everybody is so close to needing this Cold Weather Shelter that they just don’t even know it. There is a thin line between a regular day and being homeless. Nobody knows when they’re going to cross that line because homelessness doesn’t happen expectedly. It’s always unexpected and that’s why I want to make it as normal as possible,” Metzger said.

The Cold Weather Shelter and CLCE encourage people to volunteer and to have a good time while making a positive difference in the community.

Infobox: If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering with the shelter, please contact the Cold Weather Shelter at 509-312-5602 or at [email protected] For volunteering with the CLCE please contact (509) 963-1850 or at [email protected].

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