As record high temperatures rocked King County, soaring over 100 degrees, King County opened a cooling center and overnight shelter in White Center to offer local residents respite from the heat.
Located in the Top Hat neighborhood at 206 SW 112th Street, the White Center Cooling Station opened on Saturday afternoon, June 26 through Wednesday morning, June 30 offering both cooling rooms and overnight stays for people who needed a break from the very high temperatures. Eighteen people came in during the first hour of the first day and others followed over the course of the heat wave.
All guests had access to a cool room with cold beverages and a variety of snacks. All rooms had cable tv and WiFi access, a microwave and mini-refrigerator and a bathroom with a shower. Overnight guests had access to three meals.
On Sunday night, the WCCC had 28 units temporarily housing 50 (human) overnight guests – 38 adults and 12 children – plus five dogs and four cats.
The guests included a family of six – mom, dad, three school-age children under age 8 and a 3-month old baby. They have been living in their van in the Top Hat area. They were turning the air conditioner off and on to take breaks from the heat when they heard about the cooling center and were relieved to hear they could stay for the duration of the heat wave. They rested in a comfortable cool room, with a variety of puzzles and games for the kids.
A veteran, also living in his car, came to stay a couple of days. His air conditioner wasn’t working and he and his dog were parched. On Monday he went to the King County Veterans Program to see about services.
A couple who needed to get out of stifling temperatures in their home came to stay. The husband was dependent on supplemental oxygen, but the oxygen apparatus started to malfunction. Staff at the site did some troubleshooting, finally reaching the company that provides the oxygen and arranged for a part to be delivered to the cooling shelter and the machine was fixed!
Another guest told staff that she and her cat were melting in their home but she could not afford to pay to stay somewhere cool. Told that the White Center Cooling Center was free, and that her cat was welcome, she was so relieved she started crying.
The Center was a collaboration between the King County Department of Community and Human Services and the Department of Local Services and the White Center Community Development Association (WCCDA). It was staffed 24/7 by County staff from the two departments and by community volunteers from the WCCDA. A big thank you to all who helped make the center possible!