Hi friends, here is a transcript of the News Tribune article of December 10, 2009 on the Mission efforts to keep homeless safe in the freezing winters.
BY JOYCE CHEN; THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Published: 12/09/09 7:59 pm | Updated: 12/10/09 8:38 am
The bed was simple – brown metal frame, bright floral blanket – but it was warm. For Jose Rodriguez, it was home for the night.
Rodriguez was one of about 150 homeless men who flocked to Tacoma Rescue Mission’s New Life Square shelter Wednesday evening to escape the cold.
“I think the Mission is good for a lot of people so they can come rest their heads,” said the 45-year-old, who is reconsidering moving back to Alaska to work in a fish processing plant. “You could freeze to death out there.”
The combination of clear skies and Arctic winds coming down from Canada led to record low temperatures across Western Washington. The National Weather Service said the previous record low in Tacoma was 27 degrees for the day. Wednesday, it was 18 degrees. Only a few towns in the western part of the state didn’t set records, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist in Seattle.
As temperatures fell Wednesday night, the amount of weather-related problems rose. There were numerous reports of broken water pipes across the region.
Inside the South Tacoma Way shelter, which serves single men, the atmosphere was busy yet subdued Wednesday. In the day room, several dozen men — and several women — bundled in parkas watched the 1960 film “Joseph and His Brethren” on three plasma TVs while waiting for dinner. Tacoma Rescue Mission also operates a family shelter for families and single women.
Chief operations officer Alvin Helms said New Life Square ideally accommodates 75 to 100 people every night. This week, as temperatures have plunged, the shelter has been averaging 150 people per night, but no one gets turned away. If the facility’s 70 beds and 33 cots are filled, staff members roll out mats.
“We’re not going to send them out in below-freezing weather,” Helms said.
Mike Strang, who was born in Tacoma, washes sheets and blankets at the shelter in exchange for a place to stay. After his house in Summit burned last December, he ended up living on the streets until he came to the shelter in April .
“I was hungry and cold when the police found me,” he said. “Instead of taking me to jail, they brought me here.”
Strang expressed gratitude for the shelter giving him a stable home. “I have a son who lives in Eastern Washington, with a big family in a tiny house,” he said. “This was a godsend for me.” Chris Salcido, who came to Tacoma from Los Angeles in October, is also volunteering at the shelter while looking for more permanent housing.
“We all love each other, because we’ve all been out on the curb,” said Salcido, who plans to get ordained. “I’m standing on my feet because of Tacoma Rescue Mission.”
Outside the shelter, the cold will linger through the week. There’s even some snow in the forecast for the weekend.
Staff writer Brian Everstine contributed to this report.