As Snohomish County was dealing with its longest winter storm in many years, local cold weather shelters like the one in Arlington opened up every night for homeless individuals.

The Arlington Cold Weather Shelter opens its doors when nighttime temperatures drop below freezing, which happened many days in a row starting on Feb. 3 as snow blanketed Arlington and much of the Puget Sound region.

On the night of Feb. 6 the shelter hosted more than 30 people.

"That's the most I've heard of," said Dawn Stoelting, one of the organizers for the Smokey Point Community Church shelter location.

"We've been doing fine for what people can do," she said, "as long as the roads aren't icy and impassable people seem to find their way here."

The Arlington shelter is rotated between four local churches, at the Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday and Monday, Jake's House Church on Tuesday, Arlington United Church on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and at Smokey Point Community Church on Thursday.

"Being that we're on the south end of Arlington, some people don't trek from downtown to here for the one night," said Stoelting, who added they still had a good number of people show up.

This winter season had been pretty calm up until the snow came in February.

"We haven't been open much this year so far, because temperatures haven't been below freezing a lot, maybe three or four times," said Stoelting.

The service has slowly grown throughout the last few years, she said.

"This is my third year and when we first opened we were averaging six to eight people, and obviously the problem has gotten worse," she said. Now the shelters tend to average around 12 people.

The cold weather shelter locations are open officially from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., although volunteers often begin setting up and accepting guests a little earlier than that. 

"We house as many people that need to come," said Stoelting. "We usually have some things they can take with them, like Gatorade, that kind of stuff."

Dinner and breakfast are also served at the shelters.

Many volunteers come out to help prepare and hand out food or set up bed locations.

"I try to give something back and help those in need," said local John Miller.

"Overall it's been very positive in working with both the volunteers here and the guests. Your heart goes out to people that live in the street. It's a hard life and a lot of the people that come in here get here at 7 p.m. and they go right to sleep, they don't even get anything to eat," he said.

Volunteer Veronica Bembry said she came out to help people as well.

"I don't like to see people out in the cold," she said. "And I'm just a people person, I love meeting new people."

Stoelting said her favorite part of helping at the Smokey Point Community Church shelter location is learning about the people who come in.

"I've gotten to know quite a few of the people that come in. There's such a stigma around the homeless population around drugs, and some of them that come in probably do use drugs [not at the shelter], but the ones that are truly homeless generally aren't addicts," she said.

"Maybe that's how they started and how they got there, but most of them are very kind and help us with everything we have to do, from unloading the trailer to putting stuff back," she said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.