A temporary homeless winter shelter is scheduled to open Wednesday in Toppenish, where more than 100 homeless people have been living in a field.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal to house an overnight shelter in a vacant building on West First Avenue owned by the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.
Nonprofit Sunrise Outreach in Yakima is teaming up with the Farm Workers Clinic to provide the winter shelter that will provide homeless people a warm place to sleep until the end of February.
“It will be good,” said City Manager Lance Hoyt. “It’s very cold out there, especially right now. I wouldn’t want to be sleeping outside in a sleeping bag.”
Service providers estimate more than 160 unsheltered homeless people are in this rural Lower Valley city on the Yakama reservation.
About 100 have taken refuge in a Toppenish field near the west end of West First Avenue. The area is where weekend flea markets are held and is sometimes referred to as The Compound.
There, people experiencing homelessness are living in makeshift structures composed of tarps, tents and fruit bins.
Area residents, churches and Sunrise Outreach have been bringing food, blankets and firewood to The Compound to help the homeless weather the winter. Many are sleeping on the frozen ground. Temperatures are below freezing this week.
About 30 homeless people in the area said they’d go to the overnight shelter, according to a recent survey conducted by Sunrise Outreach.
The shelter will be at 508 W. First Ave., just east of the Farm Workers Clinic and will be staffed by a Sunrise Outreach worker a volunteer, Hoyt said. It’s in the former NAPA Auto Parts building.
Sunrise Outreach operates Camp Hope, a homeless encampment behind the former Kmart in Yakima.
Dave Hanson, executive director of Sunrise Outreach, had been meeting with area churches and the Farm Workers Clinic the past several weeks in effort to secure a shelter, Hoyt said.
The Toppenish shelter will be open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., he said.
A 15-passenger van will be used to pick up the homeless from the areas where they congregate and take them to the shelter, where they will receive a hot meal and be allowed to sleep, he said.
The shelter will have a 24-hour fire watch because it lacks fire suppression sprinklers, but it meets other safety codes, Hoyt said.
“It’s a quality-of-life issue and it’s much needed,” Hoyt said.