Warming stations keeping people alive

Warming stations keeping people alive »Play Video
HERMISTON, Ore. -- KEPR spoke with representatives at a regional warming station to see how they're keeping people alive.

"It's bringing tears to my eyes, because I've been there," said Nora Akootchook.

To say Nora Akootchook is thankful this year would be an understatement. The past two years, she's slept in a tent by the Umatilla River.

"It's cold. We had to have at least three sleeping bags to keep us warm. And we had to go collect wood to make a fire," said Akootchook.

Nora was even pregnant one winter. She knows the bite of the cold all too well. She urges anyone sleeping outside to check out the Hermiston Warming Station. It's open any nights when it's 32 degrees or below. Offering a warm place to sleep from 7:00 p.m. til 7:00 a.m.

"It's important for people to have a way to get out of the cold. I mean, they could freeze to death. They can be very uncomfortable, which is not something that we want our community members to go through," said Hermiston Warming Station Board Chair Carol Johnson.

So far, the station has served upwards of 16 people at a time. That's out of the estimated 250 homeless in Umatilla County.

And the cold isn't just affecting those without shelter. Car owners, this goes for you. It's that time of year. Be sure to check your battery, cables, terminals and fluids as we head deeper into the winter months. It's advised to keep bottles of engine oil, coolant and washer fluid handy in your car.

As for keeping yourself warm? Experts advise everyone to wear multiple, light layers instead of heavy winter coats. Advice to keep you safe this bitter cold season.

"I'm so grateful I have my own place, and I'm paying it forward," said Akootchook.

The Union Gospel Mission in Pasco said they still have plenty of space for people who need a place to stay. In Walla Walla, First Congregational Church, on South Palouse Street has opened as a warming station.

Pendleton also has a warming station at United Methodist Church.