Volunteers wanted: Salem warming shelters ask for help as temperatures drop

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) - As temperatures drop, warming shelters in Salem need volunteers to help staff overnight shelters.

The network of non-profits that run the centers has expanded its services; instead of opening only when temperatures drop to 27 degrees for several nights in a row, they now open when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency says it needs more man power to run the centers. At night, First Presbyterian Church transforms into one of three of its potential Salem warming centers.

“There was a tent that was thrown up in the park and we decided that we could do better than that,” Robert Thrasher, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, said.

Thrasher says the centers are open to men, women and pets from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. when the mercury drops below 32 degree.

Volunteers check-in the guests, provide warm drinks, wash blankets and ensure everyone is kept safe as the snooze.

"We like to have a good amount of volunteers in ratio to our guests for the night,” Thrasher said. “One of our south Salem sites we haven’t been able to fully staff, so we closed it.”

Ashley Hamilton, associate program director at Arches, says to provide a warm place for those in need to sleep at night, Arches needs four dozen volunteers across its three shelters.

Sadly, so far this season, they’ve only opened the south Salem center once, leaving just two facilities to house the city’s homeless.

While Thrasher says the network is used to being the ones giving help, they’re now asking for it.

“Partnership,” Thrasher said. “That’s the key word that comes up when I think of the warming operation, because we can’t do it just by ourselves.”

Although the shelters operate in churches, Thrasher says volunteers come from all faith traditions and everyone is welcome.

“I think to think of it has faith-based, plus anyone of goodwill, partnering together to make Salem really live up to its name as ‘The City of Peace’,” Thrasher said.

People interested in volunteering at a warming shelter during the winter months can visit the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s website.

Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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