This week’s series of winter storms underscore the need for homeless shelters year-round according to some advocates. But most cold weather shelters are slated to close their doors in a few weeks.
Homeless advocates had been asking for months to allow one county shelter in Sunnyvale to stay open beyond the mandatory April closing date. 24 hours ago, the board of supervisors agreed, greenlighting a possible blueprint for year-round shelters, even when it’s not cold or raining.
The HomeFirst shelter in Sunnyvale routinely fills its 140 beds each night. Here, north county parents and their children. And homeless residents and their pets all share space..
“That’s what we like about this place. I wish some more places open like this more. That way the could bring families more together,” said shelter resident Jesus Lopez.
The seasonal closing mandated by a county ordinance for April 15 has been put on hold. Staffers say the need for beds doesn’t end when Winter becomes Spring..
“These people would be out on April 15, the last day of the cold weather shelter program. And they’d be out on the street.,” said Stephanie Demos of HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County.
Tuesday the Santa Clara County board of supervisors voted to extend this shelter to year-round status, as part of a pilot program to see if the change should be permanent.
“We have been taking good are of the general fund and putting reserves aside. And that’s what those reserves are there for, they’re there for a rainy day,” said Santa Clara County district three supervisor Dave Cortese. He and board president Joe Simitian penned the change in the ordinance.
With March wetter than previous months, many of the county’s homeless must brave harsh elements from now through the end of next month.
“What we’re seeing is there’s an increase in homelessness in general. It’s also affecting families with young children,” said Demos.
Celina Cole has been living in the shelter with her nine-year-old daughter Angel almost since it opened in October. She had worried the 15th would mean a move toward more uncertainty..
“It was a panicky situation. You know, I didn’t want to be sleeping in my car with my daughter,” said Cole.
For this pair, and at least 138 others, the prospect of facing life on the streets in a few weeks is gone, as a space designed for seasonal use sees if it can become more of a stepping stone towards a permanent home..
“I think it’s a really good support system. And it helps. And it works. And you want to come to it,” said Kirby Hendon, a former shelter resident who has moved into permanent housing.
The pilot program extending the shelter wraps a year from now, but before that, the board of supervisors will get a report on how it’s going. And if they can afford to do this year round.