Mats laid out on the floor for guests of the Freedom Warming Center setup at the Santa Barbara First Presbyterian Church in November of 2019. The warming center will be held at the Veterans’ Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard this year due to COVID-19 precautions. | Credit: Paul Wellman

The Freedom Warming Centers give homeless people around Santa Barbara County emergency shelter from the storms of the cold, rainy winter months. The nonprofit is on a fundraising sprint called the Warm-Up Campaign at Crowd Rise, and the money will go to staff five locations — which are donated by church groups and charitable organizations — with counselors, doctors, and others trained to assist the vulnerable, and also to buy the mats, blankets, and meals to see everyone through the night.

The warming centers were named for a man nicknamed Freedom, who died on a December night in 2009 after a police officer found him sitting in his wheelchair as the temperatures fell below 40 degrees. The man, Paul Bradshaw, later died in the hospital. The need for a shelter open to all was obvious. Since then, homeless advocates and members of the faith community have banded together to open the temporary shelters — which operate when the temperature goes below 35 or when a 50 percent chance of rain overnight is forecast.

Freedom hopes to raise $30,000 by November 15. The group is also recruiting volunteers to cook meals and serve them to warming center clients. For more information on the Freedom Warming Centers, visit its page at the website for the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, which is its fiscal agent.


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