Group scrambles, hoping to beat subfreezing weather forecast

Weather sent a group planning for a warming center in Richmond scrambling.

Making plans since late December, a group of more than 50 people have been hoping to have a warming center ready to open during the next cold snap for people experiencing homelessness. While there has been substantial progress made in four weeks, arrangements had not quite been finalized last week, and the weather forecast for this week included subfreezing temperatures.

Volunteers continued working over the weekend to secure permission to open at least one warming center in downtown Richmond. A temporary location might be in a downtown church.

Whatever place is open, the group’s plan is to have volunteers roam the city telling homeless people about it and driving them there, if they wish. Roving drivers are credited with bringing several people in from the cold when Richmond Municipal Building was opened over the Christmas weekend.

Even without a permanent plan in place, the group is soliciting for volunteers who would keep a warming center open and assist with set-up and take down. It would be staffed with a lead volunteer who has professional training and several other volunteers who would have a basic orientation.

Anyone wishing to volunteer can sign up by visiting

At the Jan. 17 group meeting, a committee working on finding a location announced that it had secured preliminary permission to use the former Palladium-Item building, 1175 North A St. By the weekend, details such as who would provide liability insurance and pay utilities were still being finalized, according to Cathy Williams, who has been in contact with building owners.

With that plan incomplete, committee members were exploring the possibility of using a downtown church temporarily.

Downtown-area homeless shelters have also said they would open their doors for people needing a warm place to stay during below-freezing weather. Refuge of Hope for women, 1032 E. Main St., and Hope House for men, 121 N. 10th St., could provide emergency warming centers for about 40 people, the directors have said.

As planning progresses, the group decided to discontinue weekly meetings. It had formed committees earlier to investigate various facets of operating a warming center. The committee chairs have formed a task force which will meet frequently. They will call group meetings as needed.

Along with Doug Macias and Jerry Purcell, the group’s co-convenors, the task force includes Candra Ramsey from the policy committee; Dana Mollenkopf, needs; Alison Zajdel, funding; Cathy Williams, locations; Tim Pierson, volunteers; and Kalie Anderson, relations.

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Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.