Friday, April 10, 2009

Little changed at Overflow with it's new extended, expanded services

Picture from News110 of the front of Winter shelter / Overflow.
One of the twelve beds for couples in the expanded area. Each couple has their own private room.

Mostly, it's the same as it ever was – for me, anyway.

I was there for the first night of Overflow in it's bigger, extended, expanded version. For the most part, it's same old, same old. [I always have to add that Overflow (as it's mostly-called on the street) is also known as Winter shelter, the name its administrative organization, Volunteers of America, prefers to call it -- even thought it will be operating well past winter, this year, until June 30.]

Gone, is the odd and mean commandant of the place who had gained years of notoriety in Homeless World Sac. He was given his walking papers at the end of March, according to scuttlebutt. I learned that a woman named Mary was the new head.

I arrived at 3pm at the waiting/pick-up area in the parking lot of the Delany Center [part of the Loaves & Fishes complex, which is wedged between the Alkilai Flat area, the Dos Rios Triangle and the Wasteland in Sac'to]. This pick-up location had been built-up since I'd last stayed at Overflow, about three weeks ago. It was 50% bigger with white canopy to shield folks from the elements.

Even though it was early, the place was crowded. People who'd left Tent City were filling out newcomer forms, getting a jump on required paperwork for the to-be-sheltered who hadn't been in Overflow this season [which runs from November to when it closes].

A two-person crew from News10 showed up, and talked to many and did some filming. None of the parking lot filming or interviews made it into the report, but there is stuff from what was filmed at the shelter. [See the viddie, below – or visit the story w/viddie at News10 if the embedment doesn't load.]



At the parking lot, the same amount of chaos remained from what I'd remembered, but, per usual, the staff – especially Tim and Kenny, the first lieutenents – had control over assigning beds and getting people into the busses. With the expansion, there were now 204 bed-slots (as opposed to 154, before) to be filled, and six bus trips (as opposed to four) to the shelter. And, there was another huge metal storage container [like what trucks and ships use to haul goods] to be filled with people's bikes, backpacks, and other luggage-type stuff.

The new shelter spaces were mostly filled with the Tent City emigrees, with a few regular homeless taking open slots.

At the shelter, the back, outdoors area had been opened up, with more area for smokers or other socializing. The five connected modules for the new space were back there, too.

The men's outdoor restroom had doubled in size, with the shelter facility annexing the backside of a duplex bathroom at the fairgrounds.

Otherwise, things were very much as they'd been, except that there were more people and a news crew doing some filming.

From what I learned, the new space provided nice doublebeds in private rooms for twelve couples, who could be straight or gay. Cots or narrow beds were available for 26 single/soletary people in the extended space, out back.

It was disappointing that there weren't more changes in the utility of the pre-existing space and a marked uptick in the esprit de corps of the staff.

Guys in the 104 pre-existing slots for men, were still pretty-much confinded to barracks. The movie room was as it was with lots of traffic to and from the bathroom running through it as guys tried to focus on watching a movie.

The next morning, we were awakened at 5am for breakfast, which was the usual -- oatmeal, this time, instead of cold cereal. I got on the first bus, which now leaves after 6am, rather than at 5:20. Though we're past winter, and there's light earlier in the am, with the new season and time change, VOAs idea is to extend things in the morning. Rather than a rush to get folks out, VOA has funding to allow people to stay until 10am.

A friend of mine had asked staffer Kenny what the policies for the morning were now. The staffer didn't know. May be things will "firm up," as Mary takes greater control; we'll see.

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