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North Kitsap cold weather shelter passes first test

POULSBO — North Kitsap’s first severe weather shelter had no takers when it opened this week in Poulsbo’s First Lutheran Church .

“That wasn’t unexpected because it’s hard to get the word out,” said church Elder and Poulsbo City Councilwoman Connie Lord . Still, the Monday and Tuesday openings were a good first test for shelter volunteers, Lord said. “We mobilized very quickly.”

First Lutheran became certified as a severe weather shelter in February. It’s the third such shelter in the county; the other two are in Bremerton. The shelters are activated by the county Department of Emergency Management and give the homeless a place to escape freezing temperatures at night.

Emergency Management activated shelters Monday and Tuesday this week as temperatures dropped into the high 20s. A smattering of snowflakes fell in Poulsbo Monday.

There was no severe weather shelter north of Bremerton to activate during cold snaps earlier this winter, prompting homeless advocates into action.

First Lutheran and North Kitsap Fishline worked with the Department of Emergency Management to certify a space in the church’s Christian Center as a shelter. The church is providing the room and rallying volunteers while the county provides training, liability coverage and some startup supplies, including bedding and first aid equipment. It took several months for the weather shelter to be certified.

Lord said First Lutheran has a roster of 30 Poulsbo volunteers and plans to hold training sessions if more come forward. It takes six volunteers working in shifts to operate the shelter for a night.

Getting the word out about the shelter will take time, Emergency Management Program Coordinator Susan May said. Emergency Management sends out flyers to many Kitsap organizations, including food banks and schools, which can post updated shelter information.

Mostly the information is spread from person to person in the homeless population.

“Ninety-nine percent of it is word-of-mouth,” May said.

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