Winona County Warming Center open to community

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Kilat Fitzgerald / Winonan

The Winona County Warming Center, located in the basement of the Community Bible Church, receives donations to stock the kitchen area for visitors. (Photo by Brianna Murphy)

The Winona County Warming Center, located in the basement of the Community Bible Church, receives donations to stock the kitchen area for visitors. (Photo by Brianna Murphy)

As the town swells with a returning student population, shelter from the cold reaches a high demand. Not all people have the luxury of a stable home to survive the freezing conditions.

The newly-opened Winona County Warming Center, located at the downtown Community Bible Church, has been established to answer that need.

“The center stays open because of volunteers,” coordinator Mary Featherqill said. “This is a small part of Winona’s need for housing.”

The warming center is housed within the basement of the church, a space that has been repurposed to serve the needs of those within the community. Currently, there is space for up to ten occupants.

The warming center is equipped with antibacterial mattresses like the ones used at Winona Health. With generous contributions from Comfortex healthcare mattresses, it is a welcoming place for anyone that requires temporary shelter from the elements.

Anyone that requires a place to spend a night can do so by checking in between 9 and 10 p.m. in the back of the church. Within the warming center are lockers, bathrooms, a kitchen and sleeping quarters. It is open every night until March 31. Though the space cannot accept children and occupants must check out by 7 a.m., the center does its part for the harshest time of a cold winter night.

“We are open now for anyone that has a need,” Featherqill said.

Winona State students interested in giving back to the community are also welcome to do their part. Each shift consists of two volunteers per night, one beginning at 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. and the other picking up 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.

However, the logistics it takes to run this operation can put a strain on those already involved. Right now, the warming center is looking for groups of people who can commit to becoming a community partner in the effort to tackle homelessness in Winona. Training to become a community partner includes being well-versed in the warming center’s policies and procedures and signing up for at least two nights a month.

Since this is a community effort, attendees are encouraged to establish volunteer networks organized by a designated community liaison. The role of the community partner liaison is to coordinate with a set of volunteers to give the warming center the coverage it needs.

Volunteers interested in helping Winona’s need to provide homes can contact the center at 507-458-9197.

By Kilat Fitzgerald

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