As you may recall, last Spring, when we were under a Stay Home, Stay Safe order, the Community Emergency Response team started trying to find shelters for those neighbors lacking houses. The most recent Point in Time Count (completed Winter 2019) found over 50 people living unsheltered on Orcas. We developed a plan to provide sites to temporarily house folks. Each site had a shelter (think tent or travel trailer), outhouse, access to water, and outdoor cooking set up. We ended up housing 12 individuals and assisting many more in repairing their shelters. Our goal was to get everyone through the Stay Home, Stay Safe with the opportunity to do just that. Many of the folks who we are assisting are long term islanders. They all call Orcas home.
This has been a true community collaboration. Organizations that have stepped up to host include the Community and Catholic churches, Camp Orkila, Orcas Center, and several private citizens. We are currently working on building a Conestoga Hut (think hard-sided tent) that will provide a more weather-proof shelter. Island Hardware is providing a substantial discount on supplies and OICF has agreed to ‘own’ the structure.
The Cold Weather Shelter at the Community Church is open this week as well, so hopefully, no one is having to brave this winter weather outside.
We have needed a shelter plan long before Covid arrived and we will need a plan as we move forward. Hopefully, we can figure out a long-term solution that works for all of our community.