Heading into winter, plans are being formed for homeless warming centers throughout Santa Barbara County, using funding the Board of Supervisors set aside during budget hearings this summer. As opposed to the piecemeal approach used last winter in the face of some fierce winds and cold weather leading to the deaths of several homeless people, the county is armed with an organized protocol and staffed with dedicated coordinators.
There are three weather scenarios under which the centers will open: if the weather is anticipated to drop below 35 degrees; if there is a greater than 50-percent chance of rain for two straight days; or if there’s a forecast of a combination of weather 40 degrees or below, plus a 50-percent chance of rain. Starting December 1, when these weather forecasts are predicted, warming centers will be open in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Isla Vista from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Last year, once all the centers were open and operating, capacity was never exceeded, said Michele Mickiewicz from the Public Health Department. But while $51,781 has been poured into the program, each individual site — such as the Unitarian Society in downtown Santa Barbara — is also fundraising for more money to ensure they can properly accommodate the homeless who need shelter from the cold and rain.