Overnight lows in Pendleton dropped below freezing this week while the Pendleton Warming Shelter struggles to stay open.
Dwight Johnson, executive director of Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton, the nonprofit that operates the shelter, said a lack of volunteers willing to stay through the night is forcing the doors to close Tuesday night and other week days look sketchy.
“We require two volunteers present all night long with at least one awake,” he explained. “As we look at our scheduling calendar it is deeply concerning as we currently have very few of these shifts covered.”
The National Weather Service predicts overnight lows in Pendleton hovering around 20 until Friday and staying below freezing through the weekend. Johnson said the shelter’s policy is to open when nighttime temperatures are 32 or colder or if conditions threaten hypothermia. But getting volunteers to stay from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. during week days is the big hurdle.
Tuesday night is out, he said earlier in the day, and “right now Wednesday doesn’t have anyone, so I’m going to fill in Wednesday if I have to, even though I work Thursday.”
Johnson, who manages the search and rescue program for the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, said one of the team’s volunteers is pairing up with him, so maybe they can trade off some sleep. The shelter has a list of about 60 volunteers, but as of Nov. 26, only 32 of those are active.
“That’s not very many,” he said.
Having the warming shelter provides a compassionate place for the homeless, Johnson said, and carries practical benefits to the community. The homeless will seek out places to stay warm and sometimes end in trouble with the law for trespassing or the like.
“Really,” he said, “what they’re trying to do is survive out there basically.”
Neighbor 2 Neighbor Pendleton is looking to boost its volunteer numbers. Volunteers have to take a training session and pass a background check. For more information on volunteering for the Pendleton Warming Shelter, visit http://www.n2npendleton.org/.
Johnson described Neighbor 2 Neighbor’s volunteers as a coalition of diverse individuals from diverse backgrounds who come together as a community.
“We have everyone from evangelicals to atheists,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of like the ‘it takes a village’ principle.”
And during cold winter nights, that village needs a minimum of two people to oversee the shelter.