Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Significant Day: March 10

Photo from VOA webspace showing opening day of the Winter Shelter for 2008-09.
On March 9, the Winter Shelter - also known as Overflow - with its 104 beds for men and 50 beds for women and children, is scheduled to close. The date of March 9 is much earlier than the closing date of the shelter in years past. In that past, the Winter Shelter was open for fully five months, from Nov. 1 to Mar. 31. Not so this year, with its opening on Nov. 24 and scheduled close of Mar. 9.

With the increase in the number of homeless in Sacramento county [the extent of which will be shown when the result of the Jan. 27 StreetCount 2009 is disclosed on approximately Mar. 10], the early close is likely to leave many unprepared homeless people out in the street at night in late winter.

As the days roll forward into March, likely a forecast of late-winter weather conditions will inform the city, the county and us all how vital it is that something happen on March 10 to prevent the suffering of many of the unhoused poor.

What can happen? Volunteers of America, which runs Winter Shelter for the city and county, can be granted funding [or might get an outside grant] to continue to operate the shelter through the end of March.

Or, the city and county might reach quick agreement with homeless-advocacy groups to settle Lehr v Sac'to and allow for a tent encampment to be established speedily to 'absorb' many of the displaced homeless.

Or, camping and rough sleeping can be tolerated by the city and county and their police forces for the period after March 9 when night temperatures can still be chilly.

Or, the Salvation Army and the Union Gospel Mission and other homeless-care facilities can be allowed to harbor many people who are loose on the street at night, giving them access to warmth and a place to just be or sleep.

Something needs to happen. The demand for beds is increasing with the increase in homelessness in Sacramento county while the supply of beds will decrease a lot with a Mar. 9 end to the Winter Shelter.

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