Hermiston Warming Station in desperate need of volunteers

HERMISTON, Ore. — A warming station is looking for volunteers to staff their shelter at night for those in need.

The Hermiston Warming Station opens during the winter months, becoming a place for anyone who needs a warm place to sleep. However, they’ve had to keep their doors closed three times so far this season.

“We don’t have as many volunteers this year like we did last year,” said Teesie Hill, chairwoman for the Hermiston Warming Station. “I think we have about 110 volunteers.”

The non-profit is open to anyone — not just the homeless. Last year, more than 600 homeless people lived in Umatilla County.

“If your pipes froze, you can come here. If your electric went out for the night, if your house burned down — we take anybody who needs us,” Hill said.

They take men, women, families and minors at least 16-years-old. They started the warming station in 2011 and have been at their current location off of Highway 395 since 2016. They can hold 22 people inside.

Those looking for shelter can start coming inside at 7:30 p.m. If they’re new to the station, they’re required to fill out an intake form with minimal questions.

“The point is that they come,” Hill said. “We would rather have them come and be warm than be cold.”

Once inside, they hand over their belongings and put them into a tote until they leave the next morning. Volunteers will give them a warm drink and soup. Inside are games, books and a guitar.

The next morning, they must leave by 6:30. Before, a breakfast snack is given to them along with a shower voucher.

About seven to nine volunteers must commit to working a shift if the warming station is to open their doors. One to two people work each shift. Hill thinks the required background check is deterring potential volunteers.

“And people are like, oh I don’t think I can pass a background,” she said. “Our backgrounds are very simple. So there’s no charges within the last five years, no sex offenses ever and no violent crimes ever.”

She said they can work around other crimes such as DUIs and minor thefts.

To help bring people in, she’s offering more training this week and switching around shifts to make the first one shorter. The training is an hour.

“People sign up and what happens is they never do a shift,” she said.” So we sign up 150 people and maybe out of that 150 people we get 100 that actually do a shift.”

Hill hopes more people will come forward to volunteer so they don’t have to close their doors on people again.

“It’s horrible. We know they’re going to be cold,” she said. “We know they’re going to be wet, especially because it’s been raining lately. When we say we’re going to be open these days, they count on us to be open.”