Homeless in local churches for winter shelter

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A plan for a winter homeless shelter in the old juvenile detention building in Yakima is on hold. The Yakima Homeless Coalition couldn't get the paperwork or modifications done in time to make it happen.

"Ready for this one?" said Jessalynn Jones helping her daughter dress for outside.

Hats and gloves on, Jessalynn Jones and her two young children gear up for the cold weather.

"We're outside every day with the kids and the dogs and running," said Jones.

The Yakima Homeless Coalition is also gearing up for winter. Their plans may affect the Jones family. The coalition hoped to house the homeless inside the old juvenile detention building. But they will be offered shelter at a handful of Yakima churches instead, including one near Jessalyn's home. The idea worries her a bit.

"It's always a concern. But since, I've seen homeless in the community already. We haven't had an issue and I'm hoping that it stays that way. Well definitely be having a little bit of a close eye," said Jones.

Those living close to Englewood Christian Church, First Baptist Church and Unitarian Church will get a letter from the Coalition explaining the plan.

The churches have some building code violations already. The risk to the city was weighed before the decision was made.

"I know this is a huge concern for the city because it's a liability issue as well and we're concerned people safety as well but were more concerned with people dying on the streets, and that has happened in the past," said Tim Sullivan a member of the Yakima Coalition.

Nearly 70 homeless utilize the cold winter shelters. They're invited in when the outside weather to too dangerous to spend the night on the street.

"I do believe that everybody deserves to have a nice warm place to be especially in the cold months and I'm just glad there is a place for them to be," said Jones.

The churches will have wireless smoke detectors and walkie talkies connected to the Yakima Fire Department. Nightly volunteer patrols will help neighborhood security.

The juvenile detention center building could still be an option for the homeless in Yakima next year. The Coalition is looking to make it a year-round shelter.