Fresh Start will be open for upcoming cold, wintry nights | People
Fresh Start Warming Center in Coeur d'Alene is fighting the mid-winter blues by keeping its doors open more days this year than any in year's past, according to executive director Howard Martinson.
The center expects to be open for at least a few days this week with cold temperatures and winter storms rolling in.
“We've been open a lot this year, more than any other year,” Martinson said, because this year they raised the “trigger point” for opening the center overnight from 20 to 25 degrees. Fresh Start checks the National Weather Service every day and if it is projected to be 25 or less, homeless people in the area can expect to stay at the shelter.
Martinson estimates that the center hosts 17-20 people on average, but they have enough space for 30. If more than 30 people were to show up seeking a place to warm up, an overflow shelter is ready at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
Although it is more expensive yearly to run the shelter with the higher trigger point, Martinson says that they can do it by “stretching the budget,” which is composed exclusively of private donations. Fresh Start hasn't received city, state or federal government funding for at least a year. Martinson said that it costs about $150 to keep the center open for the night.
“We're pretty successful through our fundraising efforts,” he said. “We're not broke, we have a little bit of money in the bank through these tough times.”
Even though the shelter's finances are in good shape, the center could always use in-kind donations. Martinson said there is always a demand for food – hot or canned – as well as socks, underwear and toiletries, like toothbrushes and shaving lotion.
Fresh Start secretary Teresa Martinson said that the warming center just wants to make sure people make it through the night.
"At least they are out of the elements," she said. "We never want anyone to die because they don't have a place to be warm."