Recently I read an article about opening shelters for the homeless in Sunnyside. As one of the founders of Yakima's First Extreme Weather Shelters I am concerned our grassroots, community based concept providing temporary shelter has become an ongoing program.
Our intent was to have faith-based organizations provide the shelter, volunteers from the community at large would be recruited, trained and scheduled to help host the guests, as well as contribute the food and supplies required.
My concerns are these shelters are distracting communities from the larger issues of affordable housing, homeless prediction and prevention. Homelessness is a crisis, not a program. The extreme weather shelters were a stop gap measure until housing could be developed. The shelters were not intended to be an ongoing project becoming another program to be funded.
The tough economic times are impacting everyone; together we can refocus efforts for affordable housing and implement innovative prevention approaches so extreme weather shelters are a short term tool as was our intent.
The Red Cross was a partner in the first shelters, maybe it's time to explore Red Cross being encouraged to provide extreme weather shelters as weather-related emergencies, resulting in increased resources for housing and homeless prevention.
/s/ Steve Gaulke, Richland