SPOKANE, Wash. — The City of Spokane closed its temporary warming center on 8 a.m. on Sunday, more than two weeks after it opened and a week after its originally scheduled closing date.
The center was located in the Spokane Convention Center and was opened on Dec. 26 amid freezing temperatures and was originally scheduled to close on Jan. 2. The closing date was pushed back a week to Sunday due to the snowstorm that passed through the area Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
The site was staffed by the Guardians Foundation, and City Spokesperson Brian Coddington said its peak hours were between 2 and 6 a.m. The highest number of people the site was used by at one time was about 350, according to Coddington, who added that the site never reached full capacity and never turned away anyone.
"It went really well, we got hundreds of people every night out of the cold and into the warmth. The Guardians served more than 9,000 meals over the last couple of weeks. It allowed people to come and go as they needed to," Coddington said.
He also added that during the last week the center was open, the Guardians Foundation helped connect people with shelters in the region so they would have a place to go after the center closed. Coddington also said some people declined the chance to be connected with a shelter.
One man named Anthony showed up at the center to stay warm, and ended up volunteering. He was thankful he was able to stay out of the cold.
"I'm speechless. I mean, I don't have words," Anthony said. "It's beyond words. I can't even express my gratitude and my thanks."
Anthony is staying in a hotel room for a brief period after some of his fellow volunteers donated him money. After that, he's taking part in a year-long faith-based program to help him get back on his feet, an opportunity he's thankful for.
"I'd be remaining on the streets right now, and if it wasn't for this, I wouldn't have the opportunity because the people came down for me to enroll into this program I'm going into," Anthony said.
According to a press release from Coddington, the center cost about $400,000 to run, and estimates are still being made on damage that the Spokane Convention Center sustained over the last two weeks.
Coddington said the city is still looking for a site for a temporary homeless shelter, and that the city will look into opening another warming center in the case of a future severe weather event based on weather conditions and shelter capacity at existing locations.