Local groups help homeless weather winter

Church leaders, others in Washougal step in to assist area’s most vulnerable

The city of Washougal is considering opening a severe weather shelter for the homeless, but there are several organizations and churches in the area already offering resources such as food and clothing for people struggling to find housing and afford basic necessities.

Currently, there are no emergency cold weather shelters in Washougal or Camas. But that doesn’t mean the need is not there. At St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Washougal, a car-camping program offers safe parking for five to six families, and their vehicles, in the church’s parking lot nightly from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. That program is already full, says Rev. Kathleen Patton, St. Anne’s vicar.

Families who use the car-camping program also have limited access to the church’s kitchen, bathrooms and fellowship hall.

“Five nights a week, volunteers open the church from 5 to 7 p.m., so our guests can use our kitchen, fellowship hall and bathroom facilities,” Patton explains.

There is a portable toilet in the parking lot, and the church hopes to add a shower and laundry facilities in the near future.

The Council for the Homeless, based in Vancouver, will offer housing-assessment services for the homeless from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, Jan. 5, at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, 2350 Main St.

Renee Law, administrative specialist and center coordinator for the Children’s Home Society’s East County Family Resource Center, says the center at 1702 “C” St., Washougal, is too small to serve as a warming center, but people without permanent housing are allowed to use the phone and bathroom and pick up bags of hygiene items and food from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Donations of clothing, coats, blankets and diapers are accepted, along with used books in good condition and new toys, games and puzzles. For more information, contact Law at 360-835-7802 or reneel@chs-wa.org.

Jessica Wheeler, with The Salvation Army of Camas-Washougal, says there is warming space available during office hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, at 1612 “I” St., Washougal.

The Salvation Army recently opened its new “Blessing Room,” a free thrift store featuring clothes for all ages, and a hygiene center, with a shower for people experiencing homelessness.

For more information, call 360-835-3171, email samantha.wheeler@usw.salvationarmy.org or visit www.washougal.salvationarmy.org.

Bob Barber, pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, is a volunteer with Refuel Washougal, which provides free dinners to anyone from 4 to 6:30 p.m., Fridays, in the Washougal Community Center.

He says the number of people eating the meals has steadily increased throughout 2017, from approximately 45 to 70 people each week.

“We think this is partially because of our extended hours, but it also seems to be related to information getting out to a wider section of our community and a growing need,” Barber says.

Pam Clark, the Refuel meal coordinator, adds that the people who eat the dinners include 25 to 30 unhoused people, as well as more than 20 senior citizens, teenagers and families.