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Extreme weather shelter opens during cold snap

Bremerton Foodline Executive Director Patti Peterson displays a bed roll used at the extreme weather shelter. - Kevan Moore
Bremerton Foodline Executive Director Patti Peterson displays a bed roll used at the extreme weather shelter.
— image credit: Kevan Moore

The Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management activated the county’s Severe Weather Shelter Plan three times last week and an overnight shelter for men, women and children was available at the Bremerton Foodline.

The Foodline has housed the severe weather shelter for four years now. Last winter, there were a total of 238 people served. Last week, there were six guests on Tuesday, nine guests on Wednesday and 15 guests on Thursday.

Patti Peterson, the executive director of the Bremerton Foodline, said the surge in numbers when the shelter is open consecutive nights isn’t unusual.

“Word spreads,” Peterson said. “People come back when they’ve been here one night; they’re grateful for the heat and warmth. Sometimes they’ve been living out of their car and need a break, if they’re fortunate enough to have a vehicle and gas money.”

In order for the shelter to open, there must be a forecast of 32 degrees for four or more hours based on an evaluation of five different weather sites. The shelter also opens when two inches or more of rain is predicted in a two-day period. Despite frigid temperatures on Sunday night, the shelter was not able to open.

“It was heartbreaking (Sunday) night to send people away,” Peterson said Monday morning. “Fortunately I had some old sleeping bags to give them and send them on their way.”

Peterson noted that the Foodline is always accepting gently used sleeping bags, blankets, coats and other cold weather clothing for folks in need.

Even when the shelter does open, and no shelter activations were anticipated for the remainder of Thanksgiving week, there is a limited amount of space.

“We do have a limitation on how many people we can take,” Peterson said. “The most we ever had was 24 and had to put some people in a heated attic area and down the hallway. But, I try not to do that.”

The Red Cross provides cots and Peterson and her volunteers provide blankets, pads for the cots, sanitized pillows and a light meal that the volunteers have made.

There no shower facilities at the Foodline, but the Rescue Mission does have a mobile shower unit in a trailer that is sometimes on site. Most of the cots are set up in a lobby area, but separate space is reserved for women and children.

“It’s not very glamorous,” Peterson said. “It’s just warm and safe.”

When activated, the shelter opens from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning. Guests are not able to check into the shelter after 10 p.m.

“It’s not a come-and-go kind of thing,” Peterson said. “You’ve gotta follow the rules.”

From early November to the end of the March, the Foodline has two volunteers on shift at any one time when the shelter is open. Peterson said folks who are interested in taking a training course and volunteering can find an application online at the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management.

Applications are also available at the Foodline, located at 1600 12th St., in Bremerton. The phone number is 360-373-9971.

“We have lots of other help and we couldn’t put this together ourselves,” Peterson said. “This is really the community coming together to make this happen.”

 

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