Stepping Stones Alliance in Hermiston is expanding the operation of its winter Sleep Center so it serves people throughout the year.
The Sleep Center is at the former Sears building, 80487 N. Highway 395, Hermiston. This is expected to change, however, as Stepping Stones plans to move the center in March to a spot near its Project PATH site, 81535 Lind Road, Hermiston.
Previously open for nights from November to February, for about 90-120 days a year, the center has provided a warm place to sleep to those without shelter. But Cindi Jorgensen, center coordinator, said that was not enough.
“March here, as we all know, can be pretty cold, and the Sleep Center doesn’t usually open until around Thanksgiving,” she said.
The Sleep Center’s move gives it a permanent home, she added, though this did not happen without work.
“The biggest obstacle was finding a facility,” Jorgensen said. “Now we won’t have a place that someone has us use for a certain amount of time, and that we won’t have to worry about them needing the space in the future.”
The Sleep Center provides heating to people, and Jorgensen said she hopes it can continue this work. She said she wants it to offer protection from the elements, whether cold, hot or anything else.
“We feel that people deserve a place to sleep, to feel warm or cool, no matter what their life choices are or have been,” she said.
“When they’re out in the cold or heat, they can’t think of anything besides surviving day-to-day.”
With this center, Jorgensen said Stepping Stones Alliance looks to provide a sense of security to those seeking shelter and to give them the opportunity to move onto something more, or to take part in Project PATH, which the alliance also provides.
This difference between PATH — Practical Assistance through Transitional Housing — and the Sleep Center depends on the future plans of the person seeking shelter.
People seeking shelter for the night, or trying to keep warm in the winter months, can sleep at the center but can only stay on a nightly basis. People seeking transitional housing can do so through PATH, which provides private huts to shelter-seekers. But PATH also has requirements.
“For PATH, there are things you have to do in order to qualify for the program, to get into one of the huts that they’re providing,” Jorgensen said.
Cathy Lloyd, the chair for Stepping Stones Alliance, has said PATH will have its clients establish goals and help them accomplish them to get through the program, such as obtaining proper documents for identification or getting their GED.
The Sleep Center does not have such demands. Jorgensen said people seeking shelter for a night simply need to adhere to the rules for keeping everyone safe.
Jorgensen said as long as production continues to move smoothly the new Sleep Center will be open in March. The temporary center, in the old Sears building, will operate in the meantime.
“While the Sleep Center is more night-to-night,” she said, “we’re hoping that it serves as a stepping stone to move toward the PATH program where people can work through transitional housing and getting on their feet.”
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