Emergency Cold Weather Warming Center saves lives this winter

A “good” winter by North Tahoe – Truckee standards is measured in inches. With ski resorts reporting as many as 346 to 465 inches of snowfall, residents and visitors were grateful to the snow gods for the first good winter in years.  Of course, high snow means cold temperatures and stormy conditions. In previous years, those without homes or heat sources were left to brave even the most brutal elements, and some lost their lives. Our community changed that this year.

The Emergency Cold Weather Warming Center (EWC) opened this winter for the first time on December 24, 2015, through April 30, 2016. The goal was simple: to stop people from dying in extreme cold and weather conditions because they were homeless or could not afford to heat their home. Opening of the EWC was triggered when the forecast predicted temperatures 15 degrees or colder, more than a foot of snow, or extreme blizzards, winds or rainfalls.

Located at Truckee’s Church of the Mountains, the EWC was open for twenty-five nights and served twenty-four individuals, a family of four and four canine guests for a total of 115 overnight stays. In addition to the guests that stayed at the center and received a cot and warm meals, even more people were provided sleeping bags, warm clothing, boots, food and other basic needs.

Our community’s immense support of this effort is one that makes a person proud to call North Tahoe – Truckee home. United for Action (UFA), a coalition of faith-based organizations, nonprofits and the counties, pursued the opening of a Warming Center with full force. Church of the Mountains offered to host the project, and when the matter was brought to the Truckee Planning Commission, community members literally lined up around the room to support the pilot program. By the end of the season, 153 volunteers provided meals, supplies, monetary donations and covered volunteer shifts. This equates to more than 850 volunteer hours enthusiastically given to serve our most vulnerable neighbors. Volunteers Donna and Rick Caravelli really enjoyed cooking meals and eating with guests, “we learned firsthand that no one wants to be cold or hungry and everyone needs to be treated as a human being.”

The EWC was not just a temporary solution. EWC volunteers connected guests with relatives, community services and resources that will help them in the long term. The warming center actually filled a gap in our regional network of critical needs services. The most common challenges that guests were facing are not so foreign: physical disability, mental illness, substance abuse, family dynamics, lack of employment and a deficit of affordable housing options.

“It was a dream come true to watch so many people join together and help our neighbors who needed it the most. I saw lives transformed for both volunteers and guests. I look forward to working towards creating this reality again next season,” reflected Cathie Foley, EWC Coordinator.

There is an EWC celebration on June 1, 2016 at Church of the Mountains and you’re invited! Celebrate the success of the season from 5:30-7:00pm with savory and sweet treats as well as a quick EWC recap and discussion.

On behalf of all involved with the EWC, a special thanks to all of the people who donated goods, time and dollars to this effort. UFA would also like to thank those organizations and individuals who provided grants and major funding: Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Martis Camp Community Foundation, St. Nicholas Episcopal Church and Episcopal Community Services of Northern California, Truckee Tahoe Airport District, Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church, Placer County, and The California – Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Peace with Justice Grant).

Ways to help: become a volunteer, attend training, donate supplies or financial support, spread the word!

For more information, contact Cathie Foley, EWC Coordinator, at comumc@sbcglobal.net or (775) 690-7694.

This article was Powered by Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation. A shorter version first appeared on the Give Back Tahoe page in Sierra Sun’s May 25th, 2016, edition. TTCF covered the opening here