Warm Room finalizes lease, sets up at new South Lake Tahoe location for season | TheUnion.com

Warm Room finalizes lease, sets up at new South Lake Tahoe location for season

Ryan Hoffman
Special to The Union

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — After a temporary run at a local church, South Lake Tahoe's seasonal overnight homeless shelter is settling in at its location for the winter.

The Warm Room officially opened at the city-owned property at 1195 Rufus Allen Blvd. on Jan. 1. It was a quick transition for the volunteers at Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless, which operates the Warm Room.

Prior to finalizing a short-term lease with the city, the Warm Room was operating in Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church since Christmas Eve when it officially opened for the season.

"I would like to thank Pastor Bob Kelley and the congregation of Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church for opening their doors to us during the holiday week, a time when many that live in hotels cannot afford high-season rates," Marissa Muscat, Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless executive director, said in a press release.

The timing just might have been perfect. As coalition vice president Scott Weavil said, volunteers were able to make the transition during relatively mild winter weather. Weavil cited weather as the likely reason for lower guest counts compared to this time of year last season.

"We've heard people saying they don't need our services because they've been making a go of it outside …" Weavil said.

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That changed with the recent snow and rain.

Weavil estimated the Warm Room was averaging between eight and 13 guests in its initial week. The lower guest number helped with the transition, he added.

Addressing concerns

After some initial concerns were expressed regarding the location of the city-owned property, the conversation appears to have died down, Weavil said, with the caveat that another coalition member has been spearheading the conversation with community members.

The concerns stemmed from the building's proximity to residencies, school bus pickups, rec center, and the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe.

In response, the Warm Room took several steps to mitigate concerns. Those include hiring an outside security group and restricting the hours so they do not clash with those other nearby resources. Both of those requirements are included in the lease agreement with the city.

Weavil added that the Warm Room has improved some of the on-site lighting and added security cameras — measures the coalition has taken at previous Warm Room locations.

The precautionary measures have "certainly made me feel better," said Barbara Bannar, president of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education. The district was identified as a stakeholder in the discussion on the new Warm Room location.

Bannar said she would like to see the topic opened up for discussion with the entire board during open session at a future meeting, although the board ultimately has no formal decision to make on the matter.

Duration

Under the lease with the city, Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless pays $1,275 per month, with the city contributing $1,100 of that toward paying for the third-party security service. The city is responsible for utilities and snow removal in the parking lot.

The lease expires April 1.

The Warm Room is open from 7 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. daily.

"I also would like to thank the city for leasing us the space on Rufus Allen, as well as residents and others who frequent the surrounding area for providing valuable feedback on how we can best operate in the area," Muscat said. "Our goal is to be a great neighbor, and I think adjusting our operating hours, employing private security patrols, and maintaining a proactive, problem-solving approach will help us do that."

Ryan Hoffman is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union based in South Lake Tahoe.

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