EMERGENCY WARMING CENTER CELEBRATES SEVENTH SEASON
~ Rev. Clare Novak, United for Action, and Cathie Foley, UFA Member &(Program Director, North Tahoe-Truckee Homeless Service
At its heart, the Christmas Eve story is about shelter: a displaced couple, a dark night, a town strained for space. Before any great change can occur—the arrival of angels, the gifts of kings, the birth of new hope—warm space is needed for the travelers. For this story to rise, a community needs to say yes: each person on their journey matters to us.
This year, we celebrated the night the North Tahoe-Truckee Emergency Warming Center opened: Christmas Eve, 2015. Until that time, there was no shelter for the unhoused in our community, even during the harshest winter conditions. Here, where our economy thrives on hospitality, where many homes sit empty, where winter for most is about recreation not survival, we saw neighbors without a roof suffering—and dying—from exposure. Our community needed to say yes to their basic needs, to the value of their journey.
And we did. Thanks to a visionary grassroots collaboration between faith-based organizations led by the coalition United for Action, social service agencies, foundations, and local government—and the space generously offered by Church of the Mountains UMC, Truckee—we opened a center for warm meals, companionship, and overnight stays on the most severe winter nights. From 2 guests on that first Christmas Eve (and 115 nights of shelter in the first season) to a total of 58 guests (and 415 nights of shelter) in the 2020 season, we have seen a birth of new hope. And on Christmas Eve this year, our 9th night of the season we provided shelter for 26 people, 20 of them stranded in our community because of the storm. The Emergency Warming Center has become not only a life-saving space, but a life-changing one.
This hub of care was at first an all-volunteer program. But soon other resources and supporters flowed to it—like the humble manger, a magnet for acts of compassion and giving in our community. We’re so grateful to all who’ve given hours of planning, advocating, collaborating, fundraising, and managing this center. Especially we thank all who’ve warmly welcomed Emergency Warming Center guests with food, conversation, and help connecting with longer-term supports. For their story to rise, we needed to act as true neighbors.
At this seven-year anniversary, what do we see? The winter here is still brutal; that hasn’t changed. But today, together, we’re stronger as a community. The seasonal Emergency Warming Center is now one of four safety-net programs that form North Tahoe-Truckee Homeless Services (NTTHS). The Day Respite Center offers safe support services for health screening, meals, laundry, case management, and community, so crucial during the pandemic. For the second year, these programs are part of the non-profit AMI Housing, Inc. From its grassroots start, North Tahoe-Truckee Homeless Services now has a paid program director, program manager, a full-time case manager, a full-time Homeless Outreach Coordinator, and 3 part-time staff, in addition to volunteers.
And—through the remarkable efforts of the Town of Truckee and Mountain Housing Council—we’ve gained more low-income housing in our area, even and especially under the pressures of the COVID economy. Over the past twelve months, with community support and personal determination, 26 previously unhoused people have had the transformational moment of walking across the threshold to their own home, their new life.
We share this celebration with you, our Tahoe-Truckee neighbors, and encourage you to continue to say yes. Our mutual well-being depends on our compassion—and action—for those in greatest need. Join us to be our community’s angels. Our story starts with shelter.
For more information and to support: North Tahoe-Truckee Homeless Services www.ntthomelessservices.com; Mountain Housing Council www.mountainhousingcouncil.org; United for Action firstname.lastname@example.org