Homeless coalition winds down decade of shelter oversight

Rev. Edwin Perryman serves up a hot meal at the San Benito County Homeless Shelter in this file photo.

After about a decade running the seasonal homeless shelter, a coalition of volunteers will wind down oversight of the Southside Road facility for the final time in the coming weeks.
This is the final winter overseeing the shelter for the Homeless Coalition of San Benito County. Its leaders have informed the county that they won’t return next year to run the seasonal shelter. Currently, plans call for a permanent shelter to open two years from now, so there would be a year’s gap in which the county may use an outside contractor to run a seasonal shelter.
“They’re going to find a nonprofit organization to come in that does this, that has the background to work with the homeless,” said Pat Loe, a former county supervisor who has served as homeless coalition chairwoman in recent years.
Loe reflected how the organization of dedicated volunteers began in the early to mid-2000s.
“Well, basically, it started because there was no refuge for the homeless during the coldest months of the year,” Loe said in an interview with the Free Lance.
She credited “hundreds” of volunteers who have given back through leadership or with hands-on volunteer work, such as the area churches whose members traditionally cook the shelter’s meals. She said the organization couldn’t have done its work without the local churches’ help.
“The churches basically are the ones that primarily furnish the meals,” said Loe. “They come in and cook the dinner at night.”
She mentioned how homeless guests can get dinner, breakfast and a sack lunch to take with them in the morning.
That type of routine has defined the seasonal shelter under the coalition. The shelter, run with the help of grant and private fundraising, has traditionally opened around Thanksgiving and stayed open through March, after which the farmworker labor association takes over the facilities to house migrant laborers.
This season at the winter warming shelter, there had been 33 “unduplicated” guests staying there, according to a county official who spoke at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting.
County supervisors Tuesday talked over that yearly transition to use by farmworkers along with the change from a seasonal to permanent shelter situation.
“They’re going to have a full house at the beginning of April,” Health & Human Services Director James Rydingsword told supervisors.
As for the long term, the county is currently in negotiations to possibly buy a vacant building at 1161 San Felipe Road that would be torn down for a future shelter and day-center structure.
Currently, the county health and human services staff is working on putting out a request for potential operators of the 1161 San Felipe Road site, Rydingsword said Tuesday.

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