Inaccurate weather forecasts leave some homeless in the cold

January 23, 2013 4:06 p.m. - Updated: 4:07 p.m.

Some of Spokane’s homeless may be left in the cold because of the way the city’s warming centers are operated.

City of Spokane officials check the weather forecast in the morning and activate the emergency drop-in centers when the nighttime temperature is predicted to hit 15 degrees or below.

If the forecast is wrong, and temperatures plunge more than expected, the shelters aren’t opened, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

“The centers need so much prep time to be able to open for extra people,” Feist said. “Under the contract we have to tell them by a certain time in the morning, so we have to go on a forecast from earlier in the day.”

Because the forecast can change, the city has activated the warming centers three times this year, even though the temperature has hit 15 degrees or below about six times.

The city has warming center contracts with the First Covenant Church, the Salvation Army, and Hope House. The highest number of people to use the warming centers so far this year was 56 people total.

The city uses a sliding scale based on the number of people who drop in to the warming centers to determine how much it pays each center. The average total cost to activate them is about $800.

The city has been operating warming shelters since 2006.


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