Warming center at Unitarian Society
Paul Wellman (file)

Rain is in the forecast starting Wednesday afternoon, and the Freedom Warming Centers will be opening their doors from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to shelter the homeless. “Freedom activates based on triggers such as 50 percent chance of overnight rain and 35 degrees or colder,” explained Kathy Hayes, who directs the program.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting close to an inch of rain along Santa Barbara’s south coast overnight for Wednesday, and as much as two inches on south-facing slopes from the plume of rainy weather coming in on a fast-moving west wind. Debris flows are not expected, stated the NWS’s Eric Boldt, as the rainfall will be spread out. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates it’d take 0.8 inches of rain per hour to start a debris flow in the Thomas Fire burn scar’s second year.

Wednesday morning’s weather report added that the heaviest rain period has a small chance of thunderstorms before dawn on Thursday, but the rain potential, about 0.5 inches per hour, looks to be short of the debris-flow trigger. The cold front may produce snow down to 5,000-6,000 feet by Friday. To receive weather alerts for Santa Barbara County, sign up at awareandprepare.org.

The Freedom Warming Centers will be available during inclement weather through March 30, housing anywhere from 50 to 90 people, and their pets, in its four shelters, found at:
• Santa Barbara First Presbyterian Church, 21 East Constance
• Carpinteria Veterans Memorial Building, 941 Walnut Avenue
• Lompoc Peace Lutheran Church, 1000 West Ocean Boulevard
• Santa Maria Salvation Army, 200 West Cook Street

The Isla Vista shelter at University Methodist Church is closed for a few more weeks while the church is having some construction done. Anyone needing shelter in I.V. can meet a shuttle at the church, located at 892 Camino Del Sur, at 5:30 and 6:15 p.m., which will take them to Santa Barbara’s First Presbyterian. Likewise, a shuttle will leave Santa Barbara’s Unitarian Society, at 1535 Santa Barbara Street, for shelter at First Presbyterian at 5:30 p.m. The shuttles will return everyone to their respective locations in the morning.

All shelter clients receive dinner and breakfast, said Hayes, and the Warming Centers are fully staffed with trained part-timers. Anyone wishing to donate can do so at Freedom’s website, found at the Unitarian Church site: ussb.org/fwc/. As well as raingear like ponchos and tarps, packages of socks, knit caps and scarves, and hand sanitizer, what can be especially useful, said Hayes, are small $5 gift cards to a local coffee or hamburger restaurant. “It all depends,” she said. “At the beginning of the month, a check means our clients can maybe stay in a hotel. Toward the end of the month, it gets hard to live.”


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