Written by Chuck Hindman, Chair -
When the Conestoga huts were built, we limited the number to 31. The sleeping center location was just large enough for that number plus an overflow tent. The cost for materials alone to build the sleeping center was $30,000. Building the Conestoga huts during the hot summer of 2017 was hard work for the volunteers.
The average number of guests at the Sleeping Center for the month of October was 45 per night, 25% greater than a year ago. This increase is possible because we shortened the number of nights someone can be out of the camp before losing their hut, that in turn allowed “overnighters” to sleep in unoccupied, but assigned huts when they were temporarily empty. We also made the overflow tent open to the first five guys who showed up. We have recently noticed most people now arrive early because of these new guidelines and colder weather.
Yes, the Sleeping Center is maxed out. We are sheltering probably half of the unsheltered homeless in our area.
The surprising part of this story is that we have a fairly mellow camp these days. There may be voices raised every now and then or someone is really unhappy about something, but things are mostly calm. The big reason is that the new City Ordinance keeps people from hanging around the Sleeping Center unless they are waiting to get in. The party crowd has gone and the safe-place-to-sleep crowd is relaxed.
New faces still keep showing up. We are pretty sure it isn’t because of a hard bed in an overflow tent or unheated hut crowded between two others. It isn’t because of the cooking, of which there is none, or the requirement to exit by 9 a.m. No. We think it is primarily because of a yearning for safety and at least someone in town who cares whether a homeless person survives.
So they keep coming. And we keep sheltering as many as we can. And Walla Walla is vastly better because of it.