The seasonal homeless shelter opened its doors Dec. 3 to 18 homeless individuals on its first day of the season.
“When we opened last year, we had one (person) on the first day,” said Enrique Arreola, deputy director of county community services and workforce development. “This year we had 18 on the first day.”
Arreola attributes the higher number to two things: the cold and rainy weather and the fact that staff has been getting involved in getting people into the program. Prior to opening the shelter, staff members had conducted upfront assessments with individuals they came into contact with or found through referrals.
“Everyone that comes in, what we try to do is get them connected to resources they need,” Arreola said.
The “winter warming” shelter, located at 3235 Southside Road in Hollister, has the capacity for 40 individuals. Individuals can only stay overnight one day at a time. Two hot meals and a sack lunch are provided daily. Showers and lockers are available to use.
Arreola said that the need will increase as the rain persists and cold weather comes.
This is the second year county community services and workforce development has been involved with the operation of the warming shelter. The department took over operation of the shelter after the Homeless Coalition said it couldn’t continue to do so. The county wanted to continue to operate because of the need and demand for the shelter, Arreola said.
The shelter has a budget of around $230,000. Some of the funding was secured through grants and contributions. Arreola said the City of Hollister contributed $25,000 this year.
Having the shelter around is critical for the community, Arreola said.
“I think it’s critical, having this type of shelter not only during the winter season, but also throughout the year,” he said. “Eventually when we build the (new) facility that’ll hopefully open by next November, I think it helps the community as a whole because here we have individual homeless members learning skills, being attended to and so forth.”
The new Homeless Services Center is expected to open at 1161 San Felipe Road in November 2017. County supervisors approved a contract for architectural design at their Aug. 9 meeting for the amount of $66,400. Construction isn’t anticipated until next summer. Once the new shelter opens, it will operate year-round.
Supportive services at the current warming shelter include workshops and activities. Transportation is provided with multiple pick-up and drop off points. Transportation services can also be utilized to take people to appointments and interviews.
“It’s a big benefit we live in a community that cares about people and I think we’ll continue to get support as we have in the past,” Arreola said.
The shelter is reliant on seasonal temporary employees during the four-month duration of the program.
“Right now we’re good with what we have, but as the season goes on we’ll need additional support,” Arreola said.
Interested applicants can call the department’s office number at (831) 637-9293.