Emergency warming center opens tonight

A setting sun streams through the seasonal branches of a tree outside New Beginnings Chapel, 822 W. Main St., where a warming center will open starting tonight as temperatures are expected to dip into the teens.

The weather is expected to get down to the teens tonight, and those without shelter will be at risk of freezing.

So the emergency warming center at New Beginnings Chapel, 822 W. Main St., will be open on nights when the temperature drops below 25 degrees. The chapel will be the only emergency center open this year and will run from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Evening forecast lows will remain in the teens until Saturday, with an expected low of 14 degrees tonight, 17 degrees tomorrow night and 25 degrees on Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

The center will be for last-resort cases, and volunteers recommend anyone who needs consistent shelter go to Christian Aid Center or the city’s Sleep Center, said the Rev. Tim Bruner at New Beginnings Chapel.

The city’s Sleep Center has a capacity of 45 people, said Craig Volwiler, the vice chairman of the Walla Walla Alliance for the Homeless.

“The Conestoga huts are insulated but not heated,” he said.

The center does offer warm showers and a room people can come in and out of to warm up.

New Beginnings Chapel is looking for volunteers. They will hold an emergency warming center training session open to all. This will take place on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. inside New Beginnings Chapel, according to Bruner.

The First Congregational Church will be sending volunteers but will not be open.

The reason their church will not be an emergency center like in previous years is because, “we are hoping the number of people coming is lower than in previous years because the Sleep Center will be open,” said the Rev. Nathaniel Mahlberg of the First Congregational Church.

To keep the emergency warming center open, New Beginnings Chapel asks the community for contributions in the form of money, hygiene products and utensils. Bruner said the church hopes to raise $5,000.

“Last winter, the center was open for 39 consecutive days,” he said.

United Way of the Blue Mountains will not be participating in the organization of emergency warming centers but is happy to collect donations that can be designated specifically for the New Beginnings Chapel center, said Director Christy Lieuallen.

Lieuallen said, “you can go to the United Way website and click ‘donate now’ and specify what you would like the funds to go towards.”

The soup kitchens in various churches in Walla Walla have organized their schedules so that there will be three meals every day available for people to come eat and warm up.

“There is not a day that these guests cannot get three meals a day,” Bruner said.

Some soup kitchens may plan to open earlier and stay open later to allow people to keep warm.

Bruner said the soup kitchens are always looking for volunteers to help prepare and serve food.

Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.