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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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Clark County emergency shelter system mobilizes for people living outside

By , Columbian staff reporter, and
, Columbian staff reporter
2 Photos
Living Hope Church's winter shelter, as pictured last winter, provides a warm place for people experiencing homelessness to stay overnight.
Living Hope Church's winter shelter, as pictured last winter, provides a warm place for people experiencing homelessness to stay overnight. (Photo contributed by Living Hope Church) Photo Gallery

In the face of an unexpected winter storm, Clark County’s emergency shelters successfully opened up Wednesday night to give people living outside a warm place to sleep.

“They’re just doing what they’ve been doing all winter, and they were able to do it yesterday, as well,” said Laura Ellsworth, Council for the Homeless’ strategic partnerships and advocacy manager.

Living Hope Church’s walk-in shelter served about 50 people Wednesday night. “Everyone came in, everyone was in good spirits for the most part concerning the weather. We got everyone checked in, put a movie on, had hot pizza and life was good,” said Brian Norris, Living Hope’s outreach pastor.

Despite bad road conditions late Wednesday, shelter volunteers and clients were mostly able to arrive without a hitch, according to Ellsworth.


ReFuel Washougal is seeking volunteers to help run its winter shelter. Ask about volunteer opportunities by emailing info@refuelwashougal.org or learn more at https://www.refuelwashougal.org/se.

To volunteer at Living Hope Church’s winter shelter, email briann@livinghopechurch.com.

Living Hope Church is also accepting ready-to-eat breakfast options for its winter shelter, such as pastries, bottled water and coffee grounds. Donations can be dropped off between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. at 2711 N.E. Andresen Road., Vancouver.


If you need shelter from winter weather, call the Council for the Homeless Housing Hotline at 360-695-9677. Council for the Homeless can provide referrals for winter shelters.

To get warm during the day, go to St. Paul Lutheran Church’s basement shelter at 1309 Franklin St., Vancouver, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Overnight walk-in shelters include:

  • Living Hope Church, 2711 N.E. Andresen Road, Vancouver, open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. No referral is needed.
  • Washougal Community Center, 1681 C St., Washougal, open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. No referral is needed.

“Fortunately, even though we did have accumulation yesterday, travel was still possible for volunteers and for folks seeking shelter, as evidenced by the number of folks that were able to get inside,” Ellsworth said.

Because Living Hope’s overnight shelter closes at 7 a.m., people have to find somewhere warm to go during the day. Those leaving the shelter this morning were able to take The Vine downtown, Norris said.

Public libraries, which typically provide warm spaces for people to hang out during the day, closed today due to the weather, but St. Paul Lutheran Church’s warming center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for anyone in need.

On a city level, Vancouver’s Homeless Assistance & Resources Team is braving the snow to provide services for the unhoused population. Jamie Spinelli, the homeless response coordinator, said that team members are making sure people experiencing homelessness know their options to stay warm. Supplies like gloves or sleeping bags are also being passed out to those in need.

Spinelli said it’s a mixed bag on whether people stay outside or find refuge in a shelter.

“We see a combo. There are certainly people who are trying to find some way to get indoors, while other like to dig in and stay in their tent for a variety of reasons — like they don’t want any of their stuff to go missing or their camp to fall apart from snow,” said Spinelli.

Food options

Meals on Wheels has canceled all services for Clark County residents. The national service that delivers daily hot meals to the homes of seniors and people with disabilities serves approximately 2,220 Clark County residents.

“The safety of our staff, volunteers and our clients is always a top priority … the road conditions today across the three counties (they serve) were just too treacherous for us to feel safe having volunteers go out into,” said Jeremy James Cochran, director of marketing and communications for Meals on Wheels People, which serves Clark, Multnomah and Washington county.

But clients were not without food; the organization encouraged people to eat their “shelf stable meals,” provided to them last year. The emergency meal kit includes food staples intended to hold people over in situations like today’s.

Staff members also will conduct wellness checks over the phone throughout the day to check on clients and ensure they are not experiencing any type of emergency, such as a power outage or not enough food to last over the weekend.

The Clark County branch adopted a Monday through Thursday-model in 2020 and does not provide food Friday through Sunday.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.