In terms of fast action, the work by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation to develop and then execute a plan to create a warming station for homeless tribal members would be hard to beat.
In a time span that stretched barely past a week, tribal officials and others decided to find a way to help — rather than ignore or belittle — the homeless population in cold weather. A steering committee of representatives and area programs banded together and transformed the old Women, Infants and Children center into a warm place with rooms packed with donated furniture and supplies.
Dubbed Cmuytpama, which means “Place of Warming” in a mixture of Umatilla and Walla Walla languages, the new center will help an often-overlooked population of people.
The 14-bed warming station — at 73282 July Grounds Lane — will be open after temperatures drop below 35 degrees.
The warming station idea and the method used to get it off the ground should be used as a prototype for other entities — such as cities — as a good way to address a growing problem across the region and the U.S.
Instead of bickering and finger pointing and long-winded dissertations on all the bad things that will happen if the homeless are helped, the Confederated Tribes decided to act. That is no small feat. The homeless situation is a difficult and complicated issue that defies an easy answer. All too often, though, the focus becomes a sequence of “not in my backyard” shrouded in critiques of American drug policy, lifestyles and the notion that many homeless don’t want to work so their situation is their own fault.
Of course there are some who are homeless that, for whatever reason, have adopted that type of lifestyle. Yet for many others there are a dozen reasons why they are homeless. Yet when someone is sleeping in very cold weather, why they are doing so sort of misses the point. The point then isn’t attempting a complicated question-and-answer session but to use common human decency and get those who are less fortunate out of the cold.
Allowing people to sleep out in the elements during the cold winter months is a bad idea and doesn’t put a shiny face on our collective will to make a difference.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation did a very good thing with their warming shelter. They should be lauded.