The Monroe Cold Weather Shelter is scheduled to open for the season on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Services will be set up in the New Hope Fellowship church on West Main Street. Doors are unlocked from 8-10 p.m., and visitors can stay until 8 a.m. on nights temperatures are expected to fall below freezing. If anyone leaves after 10 p.m., they are not allowed to re-enter.

In the winter of 2015-16, the people experiencing homelessness sought used the shelter about 128 times, according to TTNS. One guest said they had to walk all night to stay alive when the thermometer hits freezing. 

Nearly one in nine unsheltered people surveyed in the 2017 Point In Time survey said they slept in Monroe or the Sky Valley the night before the one-day count; nearly one in 13 said their last permanent residence was in the area.

This year 8.5 percent — 44 of the 515 unsheltered homeless people surveyed in Snohomish County —were families, according to the 2017 PIT summary report released in March. Of the 44 families, 11 had slept in their vehicle the night before. Twenty-nine individuals were under the age of 24, and 24 people were under the age of 18.

“Last year, we ended our school year with 158 homeless children in the Monroe School District,” according to Take the Next Step.

Job loss is one of the biggest life events that cause homelessness, but there is often more going on in a persons life that contributes to displacement. Snohomish County Human Services has also identified a lack of housing and mental health and substance abuse treatment as some of the biggest factors.

A group of local organizations started the shelter about five years ago. The facility is usually open 25 to 35 days each year and typically closes on March 15. By Dec. 17, 2016, funds were running low after only 12 days of being open.

Operations cost about $180 per night or $6,000 annually. That covers a paid site manager and utilities.

“Without the support of community members and organizations through donations and grants, we would not be able to stay open,” wrote director Kim Gee in a letter. “We use any and every donation to keep our doors open and offer a safe warm place for our communitys homeless and those in need.”

The Snohomish County Fire District 7 staff provides cots, the Sky Valley Food Bank supplies food and the YMCA offers laundry services. Take the Next Step is the fiscal agent; tax incentives for donations are available by operating under the nonprofit's umbrella. Residents provide personal items, such as coats, hats, socks, gloves and hygiene products.

Gee has said volunteers are crucial to keep the shelter running. The doors remain open for 12 hours, which are broken up into three four-hour shifts for volunteers.

This year TTNS has announced the shelter is in desperate need of volunteers. Available shifts are from 8 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 4 a.m. and 4-8 a.m. The Monroe Cold Weather Alliance schedules volunteers and trainings. Volunteers are required to complete two sessions through the Snohomish County Medical Reserve Corps, which is how the shelter is insured.

To volunteer or for more information, contact Therese Quinn at tquinn@snohd.org. To verify the shelter is open, visit monroewa.gov/list.aspx.