City of Tacoma considering additional space for warming centers as temperatures drop

As temperatures are dropping, concern is rising for those who are living on the street or can’t afford utility bills to warm their home. The City of Tacoma offers a warming center on specific days when the weather is too cold for anyone who does not have heat.

The warming center is provided at the Eastside Community Center, located at 1721 E 56th Street, Tacoma, WA. Metro Parks Tacoma owns the facility. Valeo operates the warming center, where people can have a safe place to stay, eat a hot meal, and get connected to resources like housing options and employment.

“It can really help them transition if they are experiencing homelessness, transition off the street. Or, even if they’re folks who are visiting because maybe they don’t have utilities on in their own home,” said Allyson Griffith, assistant director of neighborhood and community services for the City of Tacoma.

The warming center is only available on specified days. Activation of the center is determined every Monday for the following week based on the weather forecast. Griffith explained temperatures must be 32 degrees, or 35 degrees with inclement weather like rain, wind or snow.

The warming center was activated for the first time of the season October 24-27. Griffith said 26 people were served during that time. With only a 40-person capacity at the center due to social distancing requirements, Griffith said the city realizes more space is needed.

“We are working with our shelter providers throughout the community to look at whether there are some other options for inclement weather shelter expansion,” Griffith.

Not everyone who needs the service can make it over to Tacoma’s east side. Griffith said crews are putting more boots to the ground to fix that.

“There are transportation options. Our homeless outreach team as well as a couple of our service providers are equipped with bus passes. So, if they come across individuals that are experiencing homelessness who need help getting to the location they do have an option to give them a bus pass,” said Griffith.

Precious Gant said she would take advantage of the services provided at the warming center, if she had transportation to get there. About a dozen tents are pitched at the intersection of J Street and Earnest S Brazil Street in Tacoma. One of the tents belongs to Gant. For almost a year, the 60-year-old said she has been on the street having a hard trying to find a home she can afford.

“I really need the assistance of people who can help me help myself to gain the resources to get housing and medical,” said Gant. “I trust God. So, I believe it’s going to get better for me.”

Housing is becoming more urgent for Gant than ever before as temperatures drop. Her tent, with holes and no heat, is no match for the upcoming winter weather—let alone the current conditions.

“It gets so cold where I have literally cried from the cold because of the wind and the rain,” said Gant. “So cold to the point where I can’t even get up because of the arthritis and stuff I have.”

While the city explores options to provide more for those who need it, Gant said, for now, she hopes to get by with just one more thing.

“A heater! Blankets, I got blankets. But a heater! I need a heater,” said Gant.

The city will send notifications to the community on its website and social media pages when the warming center is activated.