With temperatures expected to plunge into the teens and single digits in the next few nights, some local organizations are functioning as warming centers for the homeless.

Such centers provide temporary shelter for homeless people to prevent injury, illness or death in the event of extreme weather conditions.

Carmela Geer, executive director of the Edward King House Senior Center, said the house will act as a warming center starting on Tuesday and will continue throughout the winter, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Geer said conditions don’t necessarily have to be dire. “Even if it’s just a regular winter day,” all are welcome to stop in and get warm, she said.

The Newport Public Library, 300 Spring St.; the Florence M. Gray Community Center, 1 Shimoda Way; and Donovan Manor, 19 Chapel St., also will serve as daytime warming centers, according to the Newport Fire Department’s Facebook page.

Seamen’s Church Institute, 18 Market Square, will function as an overnight warming center today through Tuesday from 4 p.m.-7 a.m., offering not only shelter but also hot food and beverages, cots and blankets.

Leslie Streuli, events and marketing coordinator for the Seamen’s Church Institute, said she believes that, besides homeless shelters, the institute is the only organization in the state that opens as an overnight warming center.

Wednesday marked the institute’s first day of accepting overnight guests for this year’s stretch of frigid cold weather; the organization has done this in years past as well, Streuli said.

The decision to open Seamen’s Church Institute as an overnight warming center is done in collaboration with the Newport fire chief and the Housing Authority of Newport, Streuli said.

The maximum intake per night at the institute is 20 people, Streuli said. In past bouts with frigid weather, the organization would typically see an average of 10 people on any given night seeking a warm place to sleep, she said.

But that number varied greatly and the influx of clients is always “brutally unpredictable,” Streuli said. It simply depends on “what kind of state people find themselves in” when the weather turns extremely cold, she said.

Volunteers are needed at Seamen’s Church Institute to assist with handing out warm food and drinks, playing card games with clients and ensuring the building runs smoothly.

There are two shifts for volunteers: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Call the Seamen’s Church Institute at 847-4260. Volunteers will receive on-the-job training.

“We rely almost entirely on volunteers,” Streuli said. “It takes a lot of people pitching in.”


Courtesy of The Newport Daily News