Spokane’s homeless population takes on colder temperatures

Freezing temperatures can be dangerous. For those without permanent housing, they can be deadly.

SPOKANE, Wash. — When temperatures drop, the last place you may want to be is outside. But, living outside is the reality for the reported 400 people staying at the homeless encampment near I-90 and Freya.

So, for executive director of Jewels Helping Hands Julie Garcia, that means it’s time to make sure there are resources to keep these people safe.

“Our goal is to provide as many safe and warm places as possible,” Garcia said.

She said churches have provided warm water tanks and hundreds of sleeping bags. Extra Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) security is keeping an eye on burn barrels to keep people warm, but also make sure property doesn’t catch on fire.

She said there is also a warming tent inside the camp that operates 24 hours a day. But, there are still challenges.

“Every morning we do tent checks at 6 am That means we go tent to tent and make sure everyone survived the night,” Garcia explained. “As much padding as we can give them, they’re still outside in this weather.”

But, Garcia said she needs more help from the city.

“We need a warming center,” Garcia said. “Just like we did every year in the past. There are still folks throughout our county that need a place to go and not die in the winter.”

The city is encouraging people to use available shelter space to find warmth.

According to the city, 30% of shelter space was in use as of last Wednesday.

Garcia said for those who are ready, her organization is helping to move people to the Trent shelter, 3 miles from the camp.

As of Sunday night, the Trent shelter reported 223 people in-house. With 250 beds and 100 mats, the shelter is able to hold 350 people.

But with over 400 people at the camp and people staying on the streets downtown, it’s a numbers game to find everyone a warm place to stay.

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