United Way of San Juan County





 “Out of the Cold”

Severe Weather Emergency Shelter Program

Mission Statement

To provide safe, warm, and welcoming shelter during extreme weather

 to people who have no place else to come in from the cold.


San Juan Island has an urgent need. As you know, while we don’t have a full count yet, our homeless population has increased in previous years, with as many as ten or more people living in cars and in the woods on San Juan alone, and the numbers are on the rise. San Juan Island’s faith-based groups and other community stakeholders are leading an initiative to establish a severe weather shelter on San Juan Island. The purpose of the shelter to house our island homeless during the coldest nights of winter, when the temperature drops below 30 degrees F. There will be separate spaces for men and women/women and children. The Grange and SJI Family Resource Center have offered space, with details yet to be worked out. We are modeling our shelter after Orcas’ program success and best practices. We want to be up and running by November 20 and will announce our blanket drive and open house for volunteers next week.

This island-wide, collaborative project is run by a Steering Committee that includes pastors and representatives of our churches, social services, United Way of San Juan County, San Juan County Affordable Housing, Friday Harbor Food Bank, Washington Vocational Services, Senior Services, Compass Health, and others. Based on Orcas’ experience, the group estimates the number nights in the average winter in the San Juans to be approximately 18 nights in which we may have 30 degree F or lower temperatures. People in situations of homelessness will make use of the shelter: including men, women, and children.

We need to raise $12,000 by November 20th for supplies and staffing for the winter. Donated funds will be used to pay a part-time Shelter Coordinator to coordinate schedules and four paid staff to take some of the night shifts at two shelters. Volunteers will staff the other shifts and some night shifts. Please consider volunteering!

 But most important right now, the shelter needs your financial support. To donate, please go to the United Way SJC website, unitedwaysjc.com or send a check to:


United Way of San Juan County

P.O. Box 3181

Friday Harbor, WA 98250


Be sure to designate “for shelter” on your check or in the comment section on the website donation page. United Way SJC will pass 100 percent of funds raised through this campaign directly to shelter expenses.

If you would like to be on our volunteer list, please email us at unitedwaysjc.com or call us at 360-378-2141. We need no less than a pool of 40 volunteers! We will be holding an open house for volunteers to discuss details in November.

Our community can make all the difference. Operating the severe weather shelters is only possible because of Islanders’ compassion for individuals and families whose life circumstances have found them without a place to call home. The Severe Weather Shelter Steering Committee sincerely appreciates all that the community is doing to support this important program.



UNITED WAY OF SAN JUAN COUNTY WANTS TO THANK YOU for helping us in the first half of 2017.

With your assistance, we have been able to: 

  • Fund 14  San Juan County nonprofits working in our focus areas of health, education, and income stability. 
  • Implement our Community Impact Model, which seeks to get to the root of our islands’ problems, and creating stable and healthy families, seniors, and children. 
  • Pilot programs to be expanded in the fall: After-School Reading Enrichment Programs for elementary students who are at risk of falling behind in school. 
  • Pilot “Food for Kids!” a weekend backpack program on San Juan Island, similar to the Starfish Project and Orcas Island’s program, to be expanded in 2018.


United Way of San Juan County Affordable Housing Update, August 2017

Serving over 1800 unduplicated individuals at midyear 2017, United Way of San Juan County (UWSJC) is seeing an increase in the number of people struggling to make ends meet in the San Juans.

United Way of San Juan County currently funds 14 local schools and nonprofits working in health, education, and income stability. Like UWSJC, these schools and nonprofits are dedicated to improving the skills, wellbeing, and independence of people in our community who may be going through tough times, and for the community as a whole. It appears that this number is, in fact, growing, while the labor force is shrinking.

Of the households in the county, 40 % have income that is low, very low, or extremely low, according to HUD. And from 2010 to 2015, the percentage of cost-burdened households in nearly every income bracket increased.[i]

United Way’s 2014 ALICE report found that in San Juan County almost 5000 people struggle to survive on insufficient income – a full one-third of our island population. This number is greater today.

In July 2017, UWSJC- supported community organizations reported some of the day-to-day effects of the loss of affordable rental units, homelessness, the need for more food donations to four community food banks. They talked about our workforce shortage, child poverty, the increase in requests for Hospice care and equipment, and more.

As one nonprofit director noted:

I am seeing our families working more, but still not making enough money to afford the basic necessities, including childcare. Many of these families struggle just to pay for housing and food.

The number of people struggling to live here is on the rise, and UWSJC is working with community partners to reverse this trend.  Join us!

Together we can make a difference in our island's future. 


[i] 2015 Washington State Housing Needs Assessment, Washington Affordable Housing Advisory Board.