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Murari Avery displays a wreath she made by hand from found objects. Though she didn’t stay at the warming center at First United Methodist Church the evening this photo was taken, she stopped by to gift the wreath to shelter director Maria Long.

Paul Wellman

Murari Avery displays a wreath she made by hand from found objects. Though she didn’t stay at the warming center at First United Methodist Church the evening this photo was taken, she stopped by to gift the wreath to shelter director Maria Long.


Emergency Shelters Jammed

Cold Winter Sends Many Homeless to Warming Centers


Thursday, January 3, 2013
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This winter’s cold snap has contributed to a more picturesque holiday season — replete with a fine dusting of powder in the mountains — but for people living on the streets, the cold and wet have proved daunting. “We’ve been absolutely slammed,” said Maria Long, who helps run the emergency warming shelters that open up when weather conditions become sufficiently severe. Long said the shelters — run through a consortium of churches, nonprofits, volunteers, and county employees — have been open 26 of the last 27 nights and that they’d remain open the first three days of the new year. “In 26 days, we have served 1,651,” she said, cautioning that figure does not include people served throughout emergency warming shelters north of Gaviota. At Trinity Episcopal, the numbers have hovered between 60 and 90 a night; at the Unitarian Society, 60 to 70. The emergency shelters are designed to supplement the work of permanent shelters like Casa Esperanza, which has a maximum capacity of 200 a night. Long noted that a majority of the visitors served are older — 55 years and up — white males. About half are first-time users.

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Independent Discussion Guidelines

It is important to be mindful that when people are closely congregated during winter months, colds, the flu and other infectious diseases pose a serious concern.Action Versus Influenza urges the community to consider thoughtful efforts to instill best practices of cough hygiene among persons sharing indoor space and urge administrators and funding agencies to work with community health education projects such as the Alliance to Teach Everywhere About Community Health www.causes.com/teach which also has a petition urging the administrators of the warming centers to work us which Indy readers may wish to view at http://www.causes.com/causes/808168-a...

After talking to various officials including Santa Barbara Public Health Department, we feel that within the next two weeks there will be a serious uptick in flu which will problematize the warming center model. In conjunction with Health Empowerment and Love (HEAL) we have been able to harmonize public health interests with the socio-cultural realities of the unhoused with a unique program in which neighbors without homes model correct cough etiquette in exchange for very nice LED headlamps.

We are hopeful that the Unitarian Society managers of the warming center will expedite implementation of heightened infection control measures including mandatory cough etiquette, WASH protocols(water,sanitation and handwashing), graphics and partitioning or relocation of individuals exhibiting ILI (influenza-like illness). Obviously, vaccination availability should be immediate for any and all warming center patrons who are willing to take it.

The vaccine is only 60-80% effective, and we also have a small letter urging NIH funding for a better vaccine. http://www.change.org/petitions/natio...

However, many people will refuse vaccination, which is why it is important to support integration of emergency shelter interests with community health interests. Readers may wish to join us in supporting a reconcilation process via http://www.change.org/petitions/hud-h...

- Geof Bard
thefluguru@gmail.com

The_Flu_Guru (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2013 at 3:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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