Logan's Warming Center opens again this winter. Here's how it started
Krystina James grew up in Cache Valley. She’s a mother, veteran and board member for the Warming Center in Logan. But years ago, after she served eight years in the U.S. Army, she found herself homeless, all while trying to raise her kids.
“Part of the reason why I joined this board is because there's not help for people like me and other people in the community," Jame said. "And I found me and my kids homeless with nowhere to go. And man, this would have been huge to have, not just a place to stay, but last year there were people coming in, even when we were finished because they had built relationships with people inside the Warming Center and they wanted to have that connection.”
In only its second year, the Warming Center aims to provide a safe, comfortable place for people who might not have another place to go during some of the coldest nights of the year.
For this winter, it’s set to open on Dec. 4 and finish its seasonal services at the end of March. On a typical day, it opens the doors at St. John's Episcopal Church — located at 85 E. 100 North in Logan — starting at 7 p.m., and ends its daily operations at 8 a.m. the next morning.
Jayme Walters is the president of the center’s board of directors. She said the board was able to assemble quickly thanks to members of the community coming together to get things up and running. Walters said Nicole Burnard, one of the center’s co-founders, was a driving force behind the Warming Center becoming a reality so quickly.
“I'd say most people, most organizations are sort of in that startup phase for at least for a couple of years, if not longer," Walters said. "This was an interesting situation in that Nicole was able to put together a group of people who had expertise and experience in this realm. And so it was literally like turbocharge, like, straight ahead.”
Though Burnard is no longer a part of the Warming Center, her grandfather remains the center’s namesake. William Burnard was a notable member of the Cache Valley community, but sadly was unhoused and living in his car in the months before his death, according to the center’s website.
Once the ball got rolling, multiple organizations started offering their buildings to house the center, but Walters said St. Johns checked all the boxes for what the Warming Center needed, so that’s where it remains to this day.
Amy Anderson, a Logan City Council member and a Warming Center board member who we talked to in part 1 of this series, said the center is modeled after a warming center in Kalispell, Montana — a part of the country that has below-freezing temperatures starting around October.
What to expect at the Warming Center
First-time guests will be required to fill out paperwork and have the ability to put their belongings in a secure area, either in the center itself or in their car, if they have one. Guests can also bring their pets inside.
“So once people are checked in and their belongings are secured, they go into the common room at St. John's Episcopal Church, where we do have cots and we'll probably have some mattress to set up this year," Anderson said. "They're taken to a location that's theirs for the night. So they can leave their things there, but we also have tables and chairs set up, there's games and puzzles and books and other activities.”
Guests have access to small food items like instant ramen, granola bars and other snacks. Anderson noted that the goal for the center is to keep people warm, and anyone who follows the center’s rules can have a warm, safe place to sleep during cold winter nights.
“Although the Warming Center is low barrier, meaning if somebody shows up and it may appear that they are intoxicated, as long as they are able to follow the rules of the Warming Center, they are allowed to enter," Anderson said. "We do not restrict people in that way.”
Once the clock hits 10 p.m., the lights are turned off and guests can get a warm night’s sleep. By 7 a.m., the lights start to come on, and by 8 a.m., the center closes up shop.
Lindsey Harrelson was recently named the Warming Center’s new executive director. A new resident in Cache Valley, Harrelson said the future is bright for the Warming Center, and she’s looking forward to helping those in the community who are in need the most.
“I've known people who are homeless, I've worked with people who've been homeless, and it's just a series of unfortunate events," Harrelson said. "It's not anything of bad character, immoral actions, and so I wanted to be a part of helping the community better understand that homeless people deserve second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh chances.”
That includes people who are in situations like James was, who said having basic access to a warm shelter and seeing compassion from others can be just what people need to escape homelessness.
“I just can't stress enough how important that is, when you're at the very bottom of the barrel," she said. "Something that simple can pull somebody out of the hole and I think it's important that the community understands that. We just need to have a little bit more compassion. We're trying to help these people better their lives, not further push them in the hole.”
To learn more about the William A. Burnard Warming Center and what you can do to help, you can visit their website at www.WABWarmingCenter.org.