Warming center

This former social studies classroom is one of the Sunset Recreation Center rooms planned for use as a warming center.

A warming center could open later this month at the former Broadway Middle School in Seaside.

Modeled after the Astoria Warming Center, the warming center, housed in the newly renamed Sunset Recreation Center, will provide overnight shelter in inclement weather and when temperatures dip below 32 degrees.

The warming center will be staffed by volunteers who would handle paperwork and conduct COVID-19 screenings. Cots would be spaced at least 6 feet apart in two classrooms, with an estimated capacity of 10 to 20 people.

The warming center will run through the winter. “We want to try to meet the need while we can,” said Skyler Archibald, the executive director of the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.

Mayor Jay Barber made the announcement at Saturday’s City Council goal-setting meeting.

The plan, a combined effort by the city, Clatsop Community Action, Helping Hands and volunteers, awaits approval from the park district’s board of directors. The park district purchased the building from the Seaside School District in January.

“This clearly is the most pressing need in Seaside during inclement weather and is a beginning step to do some specific things to deal with our homeless situation,” Barber said. “I’ll be asking the city to become a financial partner at some level, and clearly our police department and other first responders will be involved as referring agencies.”

The conversation arose after a presentation at a City Council meeting in January that included representatives from Clatsop Community Action.

Viviana Matthews, Clatsop Community Action’s executive director, and Susan Prettyman, the organization’s social services program manager, explained what Seaside could do for the homeless, including opening a warming center.

Seaside is grappling with a surge in homelessness, challenging the city, law enforcement and social services. Last year, Clatsop Community Action provided more than 600 services to the homeless population in Clatsop County, with about 25% of those services to people who reside in the Seaside area.

Barber joined a walk-through at the Sunset Recreation Center with Archibald, Matthews and Alan Evans, CEO of Helping Hands.

Matthews said Clatsop Community Action will provide the funds and case management to assist people with intakes and reporting.

“I am hoping this will lead to future projects in Seaside to help the Seaside homeless population and overall residents as well,” she said.

City Councilor Tita Montero will lead the City Council’s role on next steps for the city’s homeless situation.

With Helping Hands providing some staff and volunteers, Clatsop Community Action the finances and furnishings needed — cots, sleeping bags, food — and the park district the facility, the plans just came together, Barber said.

The warming center could also help officials determine the number of homeless people in Seaside and what kind of services are needed.

How the warming center will fit into the park district’s grand scheme will be determined by the board of directors, Archibald said.

“What I love about the buildings, we could meet three or four significant needs in our community or partner needs and we can still have a space to do what we want to do in our building, expand programming for our needs and the gym for sports tourism,” he said.

“It’s a good opportunity to use the space here for the short term, see what works, what doesn’t, and we’ll have a lot more information.”

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