In response to concerns that earlier guidelines were restrictive, the groups who manage Salem’s warming shelters have changed requirements to allow many more nights of shelter on cold nights for housing insecure people.

In previous years, Salem warming centers opened when the temperatures dropped below 28 degrees over three nights. Now warming centers will open each night the temperature falls to 32 degrees (and colder) any night between November 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.

Centers will be open weekdays, weekends and holidays.

Warming centers open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. They provide a safe and warm place for Salem residents who otherwise would sleep in the elements.

The warming center initiative is a collaboration between the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and the ARCHES project, the Salem Leadership Foundation, First Presbyterian Church, and South Salem Friends Church.

“Our mission,” organizers say, “is to provide lifesaving shelter during extreme weather conditions and to relieve human suffering.”

However, warming centers rely heavily on the participation of the community for staffing and support.

Each night of activation this winter, 3 separate sites around Salem will be open. They are: First Presbyterian Church, South Salem Friends Church and Church at the Park. The combination gives the Salem area an additional 155 beds for warming.

An Overflow system has also been developed, comprised of additional churches when the groups reach a 90% capacity at fixed locations.

The organizations are appealing to the community for staffing, saying that between 18-49 volunteers are needed per night of activation and 3-9 lead volunteers per night.

Besides beds, centers provide sleeping mats and blankets, coffee, tea and water, kennels and crates for pets and warm clothing such as gloves, hats and scarves.

Any community member who wishes to participate should contact Scott Eastburn at Scott.Eastburn@mwvcaa.org to be added to the volunteer email list-serve. Training is provided.