The forecast calls for more snow flurries this week with an icy wind that can make the low temperatures feel even colder.
With the wintry weather, the Anacortes Family Center staff is working to get people off the streets at night.
With funding from Skagit County, a local family and churches in the area, the center expanded its hotel/motel voucher system this winter to help those who would be out in the cold, center Director Dustin Johnson said.
The increased effort is new this year, in response to the closing of the Salvation Army Cold Weather Shelter. The program will cost about $75,000 for the three months it is in place, Johnson said. The center is accepting donations for the voucher program year-round.
The program means a lot of hours checking people in and out of the motels and tracking down people who are living on the streets, said Jordy Pratt, the center’s community resource manager.
“It’s so rewarding getting people off the street, especially with weather plummeting right now,” she said.
This program is working to make sure people are warm and, as snow continues to fall, “keeping them alive,” Pratt said.
More people are hearing about the cold-weather program and reaching out for help, she said. The program continues until March and can serve around 15 people at a time, including up to two families with children, he said.
Since November, the center has provided seven families with a place to stay.
Individuals and couples need to check out of their motel room each morning, with Pratt’s help, and then report back in the evening to be checked back in. However, families are able to stay through the day.
“We want to provide a little more stability for those children,” Pratt said.
She still checks in with each family during the day to make sure they are following all guidelines that the program requires, just like the individuals and couples.
Pratt’s job keeps her out on the streets talking to those who are most vulnerable and connecting them with resources. So during the colder weather, she does more checks and reaches out to people she thinks could use a room.
Some people check in every day to sleep in a warm bed, while others use the program sporadically, Pratt said.
The program is limited. If all the spaces are taken, Pratt works to connect those in need with other resources.
The center runs a year-round hotel/motel voucher, for example, Pratt said. That program is meant for people who are experiencing short-term homelessness and has a different set of guidelines than the cold-weather program. But since Pratt is running the two programs side by side, she has more options for helping people.
The year-round program also recently expanded in another way, Johnson said. The center partnered with Island Hospital to help provide a hotel room for a patient who is experiencing homelessness and receiving treatment at the hospital, he said. The room is specifically for a homeless outpatient who will need to go back the next day for additional treatment or tests.