Church opened doors as shelter on a cold night

Dave Brooksher

Redwood Times

Sunday, Jan. 13, nighttime temperatures in the Garberville\Redway area dropped to the mid-20s. That kind of weather can be fatal. Last January a 56-year-old local man was found dead on a bench in Arcata along Samoa Boulevard - near the Humboldt Bay waterfront.

To minimize the risk of losing a member of our community in what was expected to be an unusually cold night, local resident Debra Carey worked with her church group at the New Wine Fellowship to open an extreme weather shelter. She says it's something she has a history of doing in the past.

Food was provided by donation for those who took up residence that night. Carey says the only real cost incurred was to keep the heater running.

"People go there to get warm, and get fed, sleep and get some warm clothing on. We didn't have any problems," Carey said. "They watched movies, and stayed warm."

"It's something I chose to do because the weather was expected to be 23 degrees that night," she added, "I was nervous about losing any of the members of my community, so I asked the pastor if we could do it, and he said yes."

According to the National Weather Service, a nighttime low of 26 degrees was recorded at the nearby Eel River Conservation Camp. Carey says that roughly 15 people took shelter in the New Wine Fellowship that Sunday night. She felt that it worked out wonderfully, but there are no plans to continue offering the church as an extreme weather shelter as the winter drags on.

"I was hoping that we could encourage other people in the community to open their doors," Carey added, "That we could share the responsibility."

The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services is also offering winter weather shelter through Johnston's Motel in Garberville. This program requires eligibility screening, and those who are eligible can receive six-week vouchers to rent a room. It began in November and will run through April.

Social Services staffers with the DHHS are available to conduct eligibility interviews on a first come first serve basis, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Garberville Outstation, 727 Cedar St. For more information, call DHHS Social Services at 269-4127.