The story of the Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Old Shoreline police station turned Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

To serve and protect.

The building, which used to house the Shoreline Police Department, did it once and then did it again - but in a different way.

This building provided protection for our unsheltered neighbors this winter on nights when no one should be outside.

The Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter did not happen overnight. This had been a vision of people in our community for some time, and the urgency escalated a year ago February when we experienced so much Winter. In response, the City of Shoreline stepped up in a huge way, and, partnering with NUHSA, made a severe weather shelter happen.

We trained 33 volunteers, retaining 20 as active participants. Neighbors were gracious and welcoming, and emergency personnel were never called.

With a capacity for 15 adults, the Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter was activated on 14 cold nights between December and March. On our busiest night, we had 11 guests; on our slowest, 2.

Of course, this is not about numbers, statistics, agencies or buildings. It's about people.

The guests we served were diverse. Young and old. Male and female. Working and not. With and without disabilities. With possessions and with nothing. The one thing they had in common was a desire to get out of the elements (or vehicles) and into a warm, dry, welcoming space for the night. They shared resources and stories, chatted, relaxed and slept.

The volunteers were retired and working, parents and singles, male and female. They expressed gratitude for being able to meet, get to know and help our unsheltered neighbors. These wonderful people gave up a night in their own homes to come spend time, making it possible for others to be comfortable for a few short hours.

There are five people who made this effort not just happen, but be successful:

Pastor Kelly Dahlman-Oeth ran both trainings. If you are unaware, he cares for an unsheltered congregation at Ronald United Methodist Church and was able to bring experience and his own brand of compassion and love to the table.

Colleen Kelly (Community Services Manager for the City of Shoreline) did most of the heavy lifting. She also ran the trainings, coordinated access to the space, brought her own expertise to the process, got the hotline set up, and was just generally the best partner anyone could hope for.

Stanley Mochokoto (Lake City Partners) is a phenomenal community asset. He was there to open the doors in the evening and help close up shop in the morning. He went out looking for folks who needed shelter and brought them in. And he shared his wealth of knowledge about the homeless community and all the resources available to them.

Silje Sodal (NUHSA) facilitated communication between NUHSA and the City and organized everything that Colleen hadn't already. She was available to accept donations, make runs to the shelter when needed, and responded to emails coming in with questions about the shelter. She was the amazing support that held everything together.

And Pete Claar created a program that pulled data from the National Weather Service to let us know ahead of time when we might need to staff up and open. He tweaked it a couple of times for us until we had clear, concrete data with which to work.

Thank you to everyone in the community who donated to this, spread the word about it, or just had warm thoughts about how great this is. Thank you to everyone who volunteered, and to everyone who really wanted to, but simply couldn't this time around.

Once again, I am grateful to be part of Shoreline.

-- Lisa Surowiec, Volunteer Coordinator, Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter


We would like to acknowledge the incredible contributions that Lisa Surowiec gave as Volunteer Coordinator for the inaugural year of the Shoreline Severe Weather Shelter. Without her leadership and extensive time, energy and coordination, the shelter would not have become a reality this past winter. 

We recognize her management and organizational skills as she adjusted staffing daily, depending on the immediate weather projections. In addition, she solved any shelter needs with speed and grace. Deep gratitude from NUHSA and the City of Shoreline!

Can you help? A new location is needed for next winter! Do you have ideas or space to share? Please contact Thank you! 



Granny K May 20, 2020 at 7:22 AM  

It was my great privilege the one of those volunteers. I thought the training was amazing! I learned so much! Welcoming those folks was the most rewarding volunteer experience I ever had.
Karen Tynes

Unknown May 20, 2020 at 7:48 PM  

As a reader and citizen of shoreline, I want to thank all the volunteers who staffed the severe weather shelter in Shoreline this past winter. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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