First City Homeless Services has been operating its overnight warming shelter since October, and is getting ready to close that service for the season.

Evelyn Erbele told the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly earlier this week that since October, the night shelter has provided a safe place to sleep for an average of 16 people every night.

“We have seen 68 men and 26 women since October,” she said. “Because we don’t have sprinklers, we don’t have mattresses, pillows or blankets. They sleep directly on the floor. So, we have had 94 people since October – men and women combined – coming to this shelter to sleep on the floor who otherwise would be on the street.”

The warming center is Ketchikan’s only overnight homeless service that accepts people who are inebriated. Erbele said for 12 nights in February alone, Ketchikan police officers brought one or more inebriated people to the shelter; and three nights local emergency services brought in inebriated people.

Erbele said responders want the shelter to continue operating.

The City of Ketchikan provided $80,000 for the warming center to open last fall; and the service in December received a three-year grant of about $27,000 from PeaceHealth to help pay for rent and utilities.

Erbele said First City Homeless Services is asking the borough for a grant to fund the salary of one staff member at the overnight warming center.

“We have four people who were unemployed and homeless who we hired to work the overnight warming center,” she said. “We trained them for CPR, blood-borne pathogens, they all hold food-handler cards, and self-defense and de-escalation training.”

Erbele said they need at least two trained employees working each night.

First City Homeless Services also runs a year-round day shelter that closes at 4 p.m. The seasonal warming center opens at 8 p.m.

“There are six individuals that come all day and then come to sleep,” she said. “Next week, those six individuals will have no place to sleep at night under a roof. No, they are not all drug addicts; no, they are not all inebriated. Two of them are senior citizens.”

Erbele said other people who use the services came to Ketchikan in hopes of finding a job, but weren’t able to.  

The borough is working on its annual budget, which includes grants for various nonprofit agencies in the community.

First City Homeless Services day and night shelters operate out of First United Methodist Church in downtown Ketchikan. Erbele is a co-pastor at that church.