Haven’s first weeks to be discussed at Tuesday meeeting

New shelter doesn’t end planning for the homeless, group says

At Tuesday’s next “Community Conversation on Homelessness,” discussion will center around the opening of Oak Harbor’s first emergency shelter called the Haven and what more needs to be done, said Faith Wilder with Whidbey Homeless Coalition, the nonprofit group managing the shelter.

“This promises to be a lively conversation as we share the experience of the opening of the Haven – input from shelter staff, volunteers, and, hopefully, shelter guests,” she said.

The Haven opened April 13 at the Christian Reformed Church after the congregation voted to host it for 90 days.

The plan is to rotate the shelter every three months at area faith-based sights. Volunteers are helping run the nightly operation alongside a full-time manager.

On its first night, four men and three women slept at the shelter that’s open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Discussions began last year about the need for an emergency shelter in Oak Harbor as homelessness became a plight too large to ignore.

Previously, the only shelter on Whidbey was in Langley, a warming center open when the temperature hit 35 degrees or below, which occurred 44 nights this winter.

A coalition of government agencies, non-profits, transitional housing programs, law enforcement, churches, other groups and concerned citizens formed the Shelter Planning Committee last year.

“The planning committee is aware that there is continuing work to find a next location, to educate and inform the community as well as to consider other strategies for the homeless population still out there,” she said.

• Public meeting on homelessness: 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 25 at Oak Harbor United Methodist Church, 1050 SE Ireland Street. Soup served before the 1 p.m. program begins.

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