Winter-long welcome mat: Hood River Warming Shelter

Warming Shelter is a place of stories.

“The people you meet, they have so much to tell. I’ve really enjoyed just talking with them,” volunteer Rick Peargin said last week while preparing for guests at Vineyard Fellowship, where the homeless shelter shared by six local churches was located last week.

Peargin, a Hood River city public works employee, said he first encountered Warming Sbelter last winter while running the snowplow, when he saw the sign outside Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

“I just knew I had to serve,” Peargin said. “It was the Lord’s calling.”

Coffees, food, and a mattress and a sleeping bag are all provided for anyone who showse up and asks for a place to sleep. Volunteers work three-hour shifts so someone is always awake.

Sometimes the volunteers go looking for the guests.

On Dec. 3, the second shelter night this season, Hood River Hotel called that week’s site coordinator, Natalie Kardol, and said a man had gotten off the Greyhound (the stop is a block away) and come in asking for the shelter, holding a brochure. Kardol gave him directions to the Hood River Alliance Church, and said the shelter would be open.

That was at 2:15 a.m. No one had shown up earlier, so the volunteers were sent home.

“I called the volunteers and they came back down,” Kardol said.

By 3 a.m. the man still had not shown, so Kardol and one of the two volunteers got in their cars and went looking for him,

“We drove around, and didn’t see him anywhere, but then at 3:30, one of the volunteers ran into him on May Street,” Kardol said. “He was lost, and didn’t know where he was,”

The volunteers welcomed the man, and two stayed there with him until the shelter’s normal closing time of 7 a.m.

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The shelter, now in its fourth year, remains open every night through mid-March.. Typically this year the number of guests ranges from 4-10 per night.

Emmanuel Lutheran has the week of Dec. 23-30.

In addition to food and a warm place, guests can watch movies and play games, and provisions are made for showers and laundry.

If you would like to learn more, go to the website hoodrivercares.org.

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