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Warming Center Opens

Volunteer Sandy Barton checks people into the Devereux Center to stay warm as temperatures drop Tuesday in Coos Bay.

COOS BAY — For the third time in one week, the Nancy Devereux Warming Center was open and may be again tonight.

The criteria needed to open its doors to shelter and feed the homeless means wind chill must drop to 32 degrees or below, or if there is an extreme weather event such as high winds or snow.

The warming center opens from 6 p.m. and closes at 8 a.m. If needed, the warming center is prepared to also be open on Sunday and Monday.

“The maximum amount of people in the warming center at any given time is 49,” said Director Tara Johnson, adding that the center has two staff members on site, one for each shift. “It’s so important to have a warming center because without that you have people desperate to stay warm and go places that aren’t supposed to keep people warm, like walking around Walmart. It drives people to sleep in doorways for protection from the wind, which isn’t good for businesses. This gives them a place to be safe and warm.”

This is the third year that the warming center has been available for the homeless community. Though not a shelter where they can sleep, it has saved lives in the past.

“We’ve had people who come in on the edge of hypothermia and we had to call ambulances,” Johnson said. “A sleeping bag on a cold night isn’t enough to stay warm and if it gets cold or damp, it increases the potential for physical harm.”

The warming center will announce later this morning if it is open again tonight.

“Once we close the warming center in the morning, we transition people from downstairs to upstairs,” Johnson said. “Our clients are often volunteers. The meal is cooked by a volunteer, all because we have a program where if they need a tarp or tent, we ask them to volunteer, to step up and give back.”

The new warming center at College Park Church in North Bend is not open yet, but has plans to open on cold nights after the first of the year.

So far, it costs the Devereux Center around $300 a night to open the warming center due to increased prices for electricity, trash, food and paid staff.

“Anyone who wants to donate or underwrite a night, we’d appreciate that,” Johnson said. “We also welcome food items. We have games down in the warming center and people appreciate if there is something they can do to occupy their time.”

Donations can be dropped at the center, located at 1200 Newmark Ave., Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or at the warming center directly on nights when it is open. The warming center can be found below the Devereux Center, with an entrance at the side of the building.

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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