After months of scrambling, efforts to secure an emergency day shelter for homeless people on the South Coast during El Niño rains have paid off. Managers of the Earl Warren Showgrounds signed a contract to provide shelter space for up to 35 rainy days in the next three months, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara will provide trained shelter employees, and Luke Barrett — with four years of experience in homeless outreach and service — will function as project coordinator. Barrett’s skills were donated by the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, which just hired him as a regional coordinator. Getting the homeless from downtown shelters, the library, and warming shelters — for free — is Easy Lift Transportation.
Though not as conveniently located as the Veterans Memorial Building or the National Guard Armory, Earl Warren got the nod because it was considerably cheaper and had far fewer bureaucratic hurdles. According to Barrett, Earl Warren provides plenty of space, an excellent kitchen, and lots of drop-off space. It’s also far enough from surrounding neighbors not to pose any immediate issues. Barrett said Earl Warren is offering space to a host of social service providers and that hot lunches would be served and a clothes drop-off center set up.
With this weekend’s heavy rains, driving winds, and biting cold, area shelters and warming centers found themselves either packed to capacity or pretty close. For the first time ever, the PATH-Casa Esperanza shelter — with 200 beds — had to turn people away (PATH stands for People Assisting the Homeless). The new day shelter will be activated the first time weather forecasters predict a 50 percent chance of rain or more. Funding comes from the County Board of Supervisors who set aside $90,000 three weeks ago for this effort.