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There will be no severe-weather shelter in North Kitsap this winter
POULSBO — If you’re homeless in North Kitsap when the temperature dips below freezing, you’ll have to make your way to Bremerton for a place to stay the night.
Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management and homeless advocates decided this week not to open a severe weather shelter at Poulsbo First Lutheran Church, citing low numbers last winter. People needing shelter will need to go to Bremerton Foodline, 1600 12th St, Bremerton (479-6188).
Severe weather shelters were opened 30 times last season at Poulsbo First Lutheran and Bremerton’s Coffee Oasis and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. One person stayed the night at Poulsbo First Lutheran on Dec. 4, Dec. 5 and Jan. 11; two stayed the night Feb. 23, 24 and 27. Seven people stayed at the church Feb. 22, when St. Paul’s was closed. All other nights: Zero.
That’s according to the Department of Emergency Management’s Severe Weather Shelter Final Report for 2010-11.
No one stayed at Coffee Oasis, according to the report. St. Paul’s was the busiest, accommodating a total of 213 people over the 30-day period. Number of guests there ranged mostly from 5 to 15, although some nights were lower.
Coffee Oasis was available for overnight shelter for youth. St. Paul's and Poulsbo First Lutheran Church were available for adults and families.Homeless advocates say the low shelter numbers in North Kitsap don’t mean the need isn’t there. There were 2,130 homeless people — about 639 of them children — in June, said Terry Schroeder, coordinator of the Kitsap Continuum of Care Coalition.
So where are those people on frigid winter nights?
“A lot of homeless people find someone they can crash with,” said Susan May, program coordinator at the Department of Emergency Management. “When things get bad, a shelter is the last place anyone wants to go. People who are chronically homeless know how to survive.”
Paul Davis, director of faith formation at Poulsbo First Lutheran, said many homeless people have resources other than an organized shelter, such as friends’ couches, when the weather dips below freezing. Those that are camping in the woods are not likely to leave their things for the night for fear of being ripped off.
“If they’re camping in the woods, they can’t bring that with them,” Davis said.
Bad luck, bad timing
Rose Malott and Paul Irish stayed the night at Poulsbo First Lutheran Church when temperatures dipped below freezing. They are living in their 2000 Toyota RAV4 in North Kitsap and shudder when they think of the cold weather that is around the corner.
They tried to improve their lot this year but have been the victims of bad timing and state budget cuts. They’re worse off than when they were interviewed by the Herald in March.
Their only source of income, $266 a month from the state Department of Social and Health Services, was cut to $124. After the Herald story was published in March, a family “adopted” them for three months but they had to move out when a son returned home and needed the room.
Meanwhile, they had been in line to move into an RV donated to North Kitsap Fishline, but Fishline let someone else move in because Malott and Irish were living in a house.
Malott said they were promised the next RV, but that never materialized.
Malott said they’d be willing to live in a camper. “That would work too. Winter’s coming and we have to have something. They’ve closed the winter shelter in Poulsbo because not enough people went to the shelter. We could go to Bremerton, but there isn’t a place for married couples. I was asked why didn’t I go to the shelter for women and Paul could go to the men’s shelter, but we’d be cross town from each other and I don’t feel safe doing that. Besides, I married my husband to be with my husband.”
In May and June, their disability claims were rejected and are now on appeal. Malott said she has arthritis in her hands, knees and lower back; Irish has arthritis and blood clots in his legs. She said the administrative law judge told her she could get a job sorting clothes. “I don’t know of any jobs available doing that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Malott and Irish are making do on their meager DSHS check, food stamps, and community meals that are served in local churches. In addition, Fishline has provided them with laundry and shower vouchers, food, and clothes and blankets to keep warm.
May, of the county Department of Emergency Management, recommended Malott and Irish and others in similar situations contact Kitsap Community Resources (1201 Park Ave., Bremerton, 377-0053.) “They can connect them with those lifeline things that will help them get out of that situation. They should get down there so they can start processing them and find them temporary housing if it’s available.”
The following organizations and churches provide free meals to help meet local needs and build community relationships.
— Third Monday of the month, 5 p.m., St. Olaf’s Catholic Church, 18943 Caldart Ave. NE, Poulsbo. (360) 697-2679. (Also delivers meals in Poulsbo area to people who are homebound and can’t get to the church for dinner).
— Last Monday, 5-7 p.m., Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1700 NE Lincoln Road, Poulsbo. (360) 779-4746.
— Fourth Tuesday, 5 p.m., North Kitsap Baptist Church, 20516 Little Valley Road, Poulsbo. (360) 779-4689.
— First, second, third and last Wednesday, 5-7 p.m., Suquamish United Church of Christ, 18732 Division Ave. NE, Suquamish. (360) 598-4434.
— Every Thursday, 5-6 p.m., First Lutheran Church, 18920 4th Ave., Poulsbo. (360) 779-2622.
— First Friday, 6 p.m., Gateway Fellowship, 18901 8th Ave. NE, Poulsbo. (360) 779-5515.
— Last Friday, 5:30-7 p.m., VFW Hall (hosted by Bayside Church), 26096 W. 1st St. NE, Kingston.
— Kitsap Community Resources provides emergency housing for up to three months in homes provided through One Church Kitsap, a coalition of Kitsap Peninsula churches. 1201 Park Ave., Bremerton. (360) 377-0053.
— North Kitsap Fishline provides emergency shelter in various venues, including cooperating motels. Generally two to five nights, depending on the situation. Call (360) 779-5190 or visit 18916 3rd Ave. NE, Poulsbo.
— Georgia’s House, operated by the Bremerton Rescue Mission and the Weaver Foundation, can accommodate six single women and four families. 4846 Auto Center Way, Bremerton. (360) 377-0053.
— North Kitsap Fishline provides first-month rent assistance to those who can’t afford to pay all of the up-front fees of renting a new place to live. Fishline also provides rent assistant to those facing eviction from their residence.
— North Kitsap Fishline provides safe parking for up to five cars for single women who are temporarily living in their vehicles. This program is for single women only; no children.