“Homelessness is an emergency.” ~ King County Councilmember, Joe McDermott.
Earlier this month King County Executive Dow Constantine declared an emergency and outlined new investments to respond to the growing crisis of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in King County, signing a Local Proclamation of Emergency in response to the growing crisis in King County.
According to a County press release, so far in 2015, more than 66 homeless people have died on the streets and in unpermitted encampments across King County.
Estimates calculate a 20% rise in the homeless population across King County over the past decade – from 8,000 up to 10,000. The small cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend have little within their budgets for Social and Human Services expenditures.
That means in the Snoqualmie Valley, helping the homeless is a volunteer-based effort – an effort that has been passionately pursued by the Valley Renewal Center (VRC), which operates an overnight winter homeless shelter scheduled to open for its 4th season on November 24, 2015.
Organizers hope to operate the shelter out of multiple locations, beginning at the Mount Si Lutheran Church at 411 NE 8th Street in North Bend.
In addition to this North Bend location, and funding-dependent, Valley Renewal Center also hopes to run the shelter out of the Snoqualmie United Methodist Church and Fall City’s Valley Christian Assembly in an effort to provide “life-saving, overnight services” to the homeless population in the three Valley cities where the majority reside. The shelter plans to operate through April 30th.
Valley Renewal Center announced on November 9th that it had received congregational approval from Mount Si Lutheran Church to open nightly from 8PM to 8AM starting November 24th. Volunteers will staff the shelter, providing hot meals and a warm bed during the colder fall and winter months.
Before that congregational approval was granted, Valley Renewal Center also hand-delivered notices about the shelter to all neighbors living within 600 feet of Mount Si Lutheran Church, as well as holding two public informational meetings earlier this month to answer community questions about shelter operations .
Helping the Valley’s Homeless
Since the Snoqualmie Valley Winter Shelter’s introduction in December 2012, VRC says members have worked with many of the Valley’s resident homeless, providing life-saving shelter, creating relationships and helping them access needed social services.
Last year, through community donations and volunteerism, over 2,700 hot meals were served and almost 2,000 bed nights were provided. The shelter averaged 15 overnight guests nightly, serving nearly 100 individuals – and only six did not have a Snoqualmie Valley connection.
Valley Renewal Center says that although it helps many experiencing short-term homelessness, nearly half of those they serve are long-term homeless residents of the Snoqualmie Valley – with more half of the total people served coming from North Bend. Unfortunately, VRC explained that due in great part to the lack of social service funding in the Valley and previous local shelter programs, the winter shelter now serves 2nd and 3rd generation homeless.
How You Can Help
If you or your organization would like to sign up to volunteer or provide a hot evening meal at the winter shelter visit the Valley Renewal Center website. They are also providing a Thanksgiving Dinner to those in need on November 26th are are looking for prepared dishes to be delivered.
VRC also has an immediate need for a “work crew” to help move shelter items from their storage space in Snoqualmie Ridge to their trailer at Mount Si Lutheran Church on Saturday, November 21st, from 11am–2pm. Contact Shelter Manager, Trissa Dexheimer, if interested in helping.