VANCOUVER — When Neal Curtiss, ministries pastor at Living Hope Church in Vancouver, talks about the feedback he’s received from people in the community regarding the warming shelter that the Live Love Ministry opens up each year when the temperature dips below 32 degrees, he can’t help but laugh.
“A lot of them have said we’re the coolest warming shelter in Vancouver,” Curtiss said.
The Live Love Ministry warming shelter, located in the Chapel at the south side of Living Hope Church at 2533 NE Andresen Road, generally opens up when temperatures hit below 32 degrees, and is open from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m. the next morning. Curtiss said those who need shelter for the night generally come in the evening and are given a hot dinner. They are then provided with sleeping bags, blankets, coats, socks, gloves, hats, hand warmers and more.
“(We provide) just about everything you can imagine that’s connected to those who are homeless,” Curtiss said. “We do dinner and we also show a movie before they go to bed.”
Over the past several nights while temperatures have sometimes dipped into the lower teens, the shelter has been open and available to anyone who needs a warm place to stay for the night.
“We are kind of like an overflow shelter for all of the other overflow shelters in the area,” Curtiss said. “We are considered a ‘low-barrier’ shelter, which basically means we don’t have people do a breathalyzer test before they come in. We open the doors to anyone who needs a place to stay, anyone who is a part of the under-served community. A lot of people sometimes, for different reasons, don’t have a home or a place to stay or whatever the situation is.”
Curtiss said that typically between 40-60 people utilize the warming shelter each night that it’s open, and while it’s generally adults who come to the shelter, he said that for the first time they had a mother and her two small children stay there during a recent night.
“It is a place that families can go,” Curtiss said. “The thing about families is that they usually have the first opportunities at the other shelters. We usually just get adults, couples, men and women. Then we actually had a family last night, a mother and her two little kids, about 4 and 5 years old.”
Curtiss said the warming shelter typically has about 40-50 volunteers that work on a rotating basis that handle both security and volunteer service with the meals and working with the people who come to the shelter. Volunteers rotate between three different shifts — 6 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 6 a.m. and 6 to 9 a.m. Anyone who wishes to volunteer must first visit Living Hope Church at 2711 NE Andresen Road, fill out a volunteer application and pass a background check.
Curtiss said they are also currently accepting donations for the warming shelter. They are always in need of items such as sleeping bags, coats, blankets, gloves, socks, hats, snack foods that can be put into a sack lunch and cash donations as well. Donations can be dropped off tonight (Friday) at the Chapel between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. or at the main church building today until 4:30 p.m.
The warming shelter will be open for the fifth night in a row tonight, Fri., Jan. 6.
Curtiss said the volunteers at the warming shelter have received plenty of gracious feedback from people who have utilized the shelter.
“Many of them are just so grateful and very thankful, and they let us know,” he said. “Some have even shed tears. Knowing that they have a place they can go and get warm and have a hot meal, that’s the biggest thing.”
Curtiss said the church first opened up the Live Love Ministry about six years ago and have been offering the warming shelter, along with other Live Love Ministry services, since then. On a regular basis, the Live Love Center is open twice a week to provide meals and a place to hang out for a while to homeless or under-served people in the community. On Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., those who utilize the center can enjoy food, music and a short inspirational message.
During these days and times, Curtiss said they also have items available to those who come to the center, including tents, sleeping bags, food boxes, some clothing and more.
“Our motivation is, of course, from the Bible that God loves people and we love people and they’re important to us,” Curtiss said. “We don’t ask questions, we don’t judge, we just welcome them in and care for them as best we can.”
Curtiss confirmed that the warming shelter will definitely be open tonight, Fri., Jan. 6, from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. For additional information, call the church at (360) 944-3905 or visit the church website. An updated schedule of when the warming shelter will be open can also usually be found on the Living Hope Church Facebook page.