Westminster UCC/Contributed photo

Becoming a warming center because of people willing to help

By Andy CastroLang

It’s not a simple thing to become an “emergency warming center” in the space of a month (more or less!).

Yet, again and again, we here at Westminster have had the most wonderful experiences as we race to prepare our building to shelter homeless young adults in these dark cold nights of Spokane’s winter.

The representatives from the City of Spokane have been incredibly helpful.  They are deeply concerned for those experiencing homelessness.  They have compassionate hearts, and smart minds set to work on this crisis, and find ways to help.

Into the possible snarl of red tape, they came with decisiveness and possibilities.  They brought diverse folks together to help; the Guardians Foundation, the fire marshal, the people of Westminster, the City Council.

We have all been working hard to make this shelter happen, soon. 

And every step of the way, the employees from the City of Spokane have been saying, “how can we help?”

Every step of the way, we here at Westminster have been awed and humbled by the surge of support.  The trades people whose expertise we needed, all stepped up to help as quickly as possible.  All of them stated, in one way or another; “this is the right thing to do.”  They too asked, “how can we help?”

Members of the church have worked all hours of the day, every day, to completely redo our ancient, cold and unworkable restrooms.  They worked and laughed and worked some more, with great energy and commitment.  On Sunday mornings, church members asked me, “How can we help?”

Every organization that shares our beautiful and historic space was approached by church leadership, and every organization agreed, “this is the right thing to do.”  Some of those groups asked, “how can we help?”

Is this really so remarkable?  This outpouring of care, and energy?  Only in our world where we seem inundated by bad news, and the corrosive power of fear.  It is a shadow world and a lie, dispelled by the greater light of compassion and care for a neighbor.

I write to you simply to tell you that there is more to us than our fear.  There is compassion, there is care.  There is hard work and hopefulness.  There is determination to do good. There is the will to risk and rise to a challenge for the sake of others.  Church people, city workers, tradespeople, volunteer people: all responded with their time and energy and lives.

Homelessness is a complex issue and these temporary warming centers are not the answer to such a difficult situation faced by so many Americans.  But a warming center is a place of rest, and safety, and a place of hope.  Because people asked one another, “how can I help?”

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[…] stabilization programs prevent hundreds more from the same fate. This winter Salem Lutheran and Westminster UCC bravely opened their doors and hearts, turning empty gymnasiums into emergency warming shelters that were often over capacity. […]

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