Warm Room to open in South Lake Tahoe Sunday for Christmas week | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warm Room to open in South Lake Tahoe Sunday for Christmas week

South Lake Tahoe's only seasonal overnight homeless shelter will open on Christmas Eve, the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless announced Friday.

The shelter, known as the Warm Room, will open at 7 p.m. at the Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church, 2733 Lake Tahoe Blvd. The church is partnering with Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless (TCH) to open the Warm Room from Dec. 24 – 31.

"We appreciate the support of the local faith community for rallying behind our common missions of service," Marissa Muscat, TCH executive director, said in a press release.

TCH hopes to secure a one-time lease of a city-owned property in the coming week, Scott Weavil, TCH vice president, to the Tribune. The hope is to have the Warm Room open in the city-owned building, located at 1195 Rufus Allen Blvd., on Jan. 1 so there is no gap in shelter operations.

"We will do everything in our power to ensure there isn't a gap and we would like to be in Rufus Allen by the 1st," Weavil said, adding that TCH will explore all available options if it appears there might be a gap.

The proposed lease with the city drew concerns from some nearby residents during a City Council meeting earlier this month, the Tribune previously reported. The building is across from the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex and not far from the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe.

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City Council, which also heard from people in support of the shelter, requested the formation of a subcommittee to discuss and mitigate potential issues.

Those discussions have led to some solutions, such as setting the hours of operation so that the Warm Room guests are not lingering during peak hours for the nearby school and Boys & Girls Club. TCH also is engaging with High Sierra Patrol to have patrols of the property and surrounding area, according to Weavil.

"I think there is a big, big push to get in there by January 1st."

Now entering its third season, the Warm Room has been a point of controversy for some people who see the shelter as the cause of a perceived influx of homeless people. A panel of experts rejected that assumption during a Tahoe Town Hall event in late August.

"People who experience homelessness have been in this community since long before the Warm Room opened. The whole reason the Warm Room exists is because people in this community saw that need," Muscat said at the town hall.

The Warm Room anticipates operating until April 1 of this year. Earlier this year, in the midst of a record-breaking water year, the shelter stayed open until April 30.

Weavil said he believes the April 1 closing is a hard date set by the board this year.

In its announcement detailing the opening of the Warm Room, TCH also announced that it is receiving funding from the El Dorado Community Foundation and the South Lake Tahoe Endowment.

"We are also celebrating receiving funding from El Dorado Community Foundation's Veterans Mini-Grant and South Lake Tahoe Endowment grants," Nicole Zaborsky, TCH board member, said in a press release.

The funds from the veterans mini-grant will support Warm Room operations. The South Lake Tahoe Endowment will help support a "coordinated entry" program, a county-wide effort to improve efficiency of local crisis response systems and improve fairness and ease of access to resources, according to TCH, a nonprofit.

TCH also recently received a $15,000 grant from the Sierra Health Foundation for the operation of the Warm Room.

For more information or to make a donation, visit tahoehomeless.org.