The holiday season brings with it colder and wetter nights. Fortunately, the 5Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC) is there to give food, shelter and support to those in need. However, the temporary shelters are only a quick fix on something 5CHC spends the entire year helping to resolve which is getting people in their own homes.
The 5CHC’s Winter Warming Center located at the Hillside Church at 1935 Newport Ave., Grover Beach,became active on Nov. 1 and will remain open seven days a week until April 30,2019. That means during these months the center will open its doors when there is a 50 percent or higher chance of rain or if nights are forecasted to reach 40 degrees or below. Hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and most cases develop in temperatures between30 to 50 degrees. Apart from San Luis Obispo, the South County does not have a dedicated homeless shelter.
“A warming center is different from a standard emergency shelter,” said Janna Nichols 5CHC executive director, “in that its purpose is very specific to get people out of elements on the worst of winter nights.”
Ride-On, a transportation service, provides round trips from several designated location to the warming centers at a discounted rate.Passengers ride for free thanks to 5CHC paying the price for the service.
The center accomplishes two objectives. It not only provides a potentially lifesaving service by protecting vulnerable people but also enables the 5CHC to begin a conversation with individuals on how to improve their situation. The organization offers people a cot to sleep on, warm clothes and an evening meal but also performs a “coordinated intake” that begins the case management portion of the coalition’s services. The 5CHC’sultimate goal is to assist people to achieve a stable and sustainable living situation.
“We are able to do a lot of housing placement with landlords,” said Nichols, “provide the supporting services, provide the case management to help people navigate whatever caused the homelessness and try to resolve that so that they are able to maintain their housing and pay for their housing…”
Nichols said that from the people who utilized the warming center last year, the 5CHC helped permanently house eight. However, the organization helps numerous people throughout the year to attain housing stability through mentoring, coaching and guidance counseling, as well as by helping them navigate the state and federal programs that help people in need get back on their feet.
“When we get somebody housed,” said Nichols, “our track record is 96 percent of them stay housed. So that’s what we do, and the warming centers allow us to have a conversation, but that is only the beginning of the conversation.”
The 5CHC invites people to help fund their services by symbolically adopting a cot for $99 a night. The organization set a goal to 40 cots adopted community members or local businesses for at least ten nights.
For more information on the “Adopt-A-Cot” program and services the coalition provides, visit 5CHC.org