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Twin Falls warming center opens with expanded hours this winter

Twin Falls Warming Center
Twin Falls Warming Center

After a pilot run last year, a group in Twin Falls is running a warming center for more nights this winter.

The Twin Falls Warming Center opens when the overnight low temperature is 29 degrees or below. Randy Wastradowski staffs the church basement from 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. along with a rotating crew of 30 volunteers.

“We provide a safe, warm place where they can rest, they can sleep if they need to, they can get a hot beverage," he said. "Just basically provide a refuge from the elements is what we’re all about.”

The center served 10 people on 17 nights last year. This year, it’s been open for about two weeks so far and 30 people have stayed.

The warming center was conceptualized by the Region IV Homeless coalition. Last year, the group realized it needed a full-time, paid staff person to organize the shelter and coordinate volunteers. That's Wastradowski's role now. He's also looking to bring on a couple more paid staff members. The effort is funded by private donations.

Wastradowski, who used to work at the South Central Community Action Partnership, said homelessness is not a new issue to Twin Falls, but he said, anecdotally, more people are sleeping in vehicles and getting pushed out of rentals due to unaffordability.

Organizers see the warming center as a stepping stone toward a more permanent emergency shelter in Twin Falls.

“The type of place where someone needs a place to stay tonight, tomorrow, maybe for a couple days while they kind of figure things out or try to get connected with resources," said Wastradowski.

A shelter would need to meet different zoning requirements, he said.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.

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