The Pendleton Warming Station’s operations have been shrinking even as its facility has improved.
Nonprofit Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton announced that the 715 S.E. Court Ave. building will be opening for the season on Nov. 15, according to a press release.
The warming station will continue to provide a warm, safe place to sleep for Pendleton’s homeless population, but its volunteer workforce has declined in recent years.
Neighbor 2 Neighbor Executive Director Dwight Johnson, who is taking over for Chris Clemons this year, said that after the warming station first opened in 2011, it had about 100 volunteers, 40 percent of whom were active with the organization.
Johnson said the warming station is now down to 60 and only 20 to 25 volunteers consistently come to the facility.
“While funding is important, the need for volunteers is critical,” Johnson said in a statement “This year we are already seeing low temperatures prior to our season start date. Unfortunately we just do not yet have enough volunteers to open this early.”
Neighbor 2 Neighbor is launching a volunteer recruitment campaign called “What difference can YOU make?” Johnson said he would like to see the warming station return to the number of volunteers it had in its early days.
The facility typically operates between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and requires up to five volunteers every day it opens. During the overnight period, two volunteers must staff the warming station, with at least one volunteer awake at all times.
Beginning in 2016, a lack of volunteers caused Neighbor 2 Neighbor to cut its months of operation from five to four. Additionally, Neighbor 2 Neighbor was forced to temporarily close its weekly breakfast program as it seeks a new home after the First United Methodist Church stopped hosting it.
But the nonprofit has also found ways to improve some of its services over the past few seasons.
Last summer, Neighbor 2 Neighbor starting offering a “cooling station” at its Court facility with air conditioning and showers as Pendleton temperatures touched triple digits.
The warming station moved to its current facility in 2015, and after dealing with a leaky roof and insufficient heating for a winter, Neighbor 2 Neighbor secured several grants to replace the roof, install a new heating and cooling system, and acquire bunk beds.
The warming station served 74 people over 645 visits last season and is already starting to receive inquires about when they’ll reopen. The nightly lows are set to dip below freezing through the weekend and into next week.
In the meantime, Neighbor 2 Neighbor will offer training sessions for volunteers through November. At these sessions, volunteers are trained in station operations, safety, and communication.
“We like to give our volunteers the tools they need to work safely while being effective communicators,” Neighbor 2 Neighbor Training Officer Dave Williams said in a statement. “We always stress safety, and it’s important for volunteers to know that we have never had a serious incident at the station,” People interested in volunteering can call 765-791-8332 or visit the organization’s website at www.n2npendleton.org.