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Warming centers see increase of people during rainy February

Local warming centers say the rain and cold temperatures are keeping them busy and at capacity.

Warming centers like 40 Prado say their doors have been open back-to-back days including Monday night, due to cold and wet conditions this month.

40 Prado workers say they need more resources like sleeping bags and food to accommodate the higher volume of people.

“In this rain, everything I had was soaking wet,” said Thomas Goff, a new member at the Echo Homeless Shelter program.

Recent rainfall ruined Goff’s belongings.

He says the wet and cold conditions make living without a home miserable.

“I had another trash bag to insulate myself for the wind and the rain which got right through and got me soaking wet,” said Goff. “I just stayed there and prayed for God to give me some kind of hope.”

Just two days ago, that prayer was answered.

Goff joined the Echo Homeless Shelter program and is now on his way to getting a job.

He is one of many people looking for a dry, warm place to sleep.

“There definitely seems to be an uptick in people reaching out this year,” said Wendy Lewis, CEO of Echo Homeless Shelter. “Our numbers not only for our dinner program, our shower program and our shelter itself are up this year.”

CAPSLO Deputy Director Grace McIntosh says it’s also a busy year for 40 Prado.

“Since the [February] 8th, we’ve been open every day but one,” said McIntosh. “The staff has been amazing. They’re almost like ‘oh so it’s not raining, we’re not opening the warming center? at this point.”

She says food and staff resources are challenged but they are making it work.

“You never know what you are going to get from year to year,” said McIntosh. “You sort of think maybe around 20 or 30 nights we’ve already hit 35 and we don’t close until April 15th.”

These organizations count on donations like a $130,000 donation to remodel ECHO kitchen.

Lewis says it will help clients prepare for the work force.

“Not only are we impacting people by giving them a place to stay that’s nice, warm and safe, but also help them, get a job which will ultimately help them find a home of their own,” said Lewis.

“These resources are very limited right now,” said Goff. “Displacement and homelessness can happen in an instant and people need to be more aware that these are people who need help.”

These organizations are looking for donations like sleeping bags, hoodies, gloves, socks and anything you would want to keep warm and dry during a storm.

Warming centers open doors on nights when there is at least a 50 percent chance of rain or a temperature of 35 degrees or below is expected.

For a list of warming centers in Santa Barbara County click here. 

Megan Healy

Megan Healy

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