In December of 2009 The Dalles experienced a significant cold snap with temps in single digits. Recognizing that there was no shelter in for homeless people to deal with extreme cold, a group of people started talking about a solution. In January an ad hoc group held several meetings initiated by Jerry Tanquist. The participants consisted of church, social service, law enforcement and community representatives. The first meeting was a brainstorming session. We addressed the need; how a place would be managed and staffed; where it could be located; when it could be ready and next steps.
The need was recognized to be providing a place for homeless to stay warm during extreme cold nights. It was determined that with little financial resources, any program to help would have to be a volunteer effort. After significant discussion it was decided to approach St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) about using the meal site facility since it was not used at night. It was also determined we needed to write up guidelines for operations, etc. Additional meetings were scheduled and task forces were set up to deal with volunteers and staffing, writing proposals and procedures, marketing and communications, and investigating efforts in other communities.
Since HOPE already had programs to assist homeless with emergency housing and was part of the SVdP organization, it was decided to request the Warming Place be a sub-committee of HOPE and fall under the SVdP 501c-3 organization. Episcopal Deacon, Stephen Schafroth, with input from a few others, wrote proposals to the HOPE and SVdP board which they approved. Operating procedures were established and an all-out effort was started to begin operations the next winter.
Before the beginning of each season we set opening and closing dates. We currently use NOAA to determine if we are open. We are open if temperatures are forecast to be 30 degrees or less including wind chill factor if it is dry or 35 degrees or less if there is precipitation.
The volunteer recruiting started out similar to Community Meals with individual churches taking responsibility for one night each week and recruiting volunteers from within their ranks and one night consisting of others not affiliated with a particular church. Over time that has changed to placing volunteers on a night that works best for them and spreading out the volunteers so that all nights have adequate numbers. We have 2 volunteer hosts each night, requiring from 8 to 16 volunteers per week plus those that monitor the weather, nightly coordinators, trainers, etc. 70 to 125 volunteers are needed to make the program work.
Grant funding allowed us to purchase cots to replace thin mats. We have gone from having just 2 to 5 homeless guests to having well over 20 at times this last season. In 2015-16 we served 1044 guests with an average of 16 per night.