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In response to COVID-inspired safety considerations, this year’s South Coast emergency winter warming shelter will be provided at the Veterans’ Memorial Building on Cabrillo Boulevard, not the rotating church auditoriums where it’s been done the past 10 years. “Opening night” for the new shelter space is this Sunday, November 15, but unless the temperatures drop to 35 degrees — or there’s more than a 50 percent chance of rain — that opening is more theoretical than real.
With temperatures dipping into the low 40s at night and the wind blowing hard, some homeless advocates are arguing the need for such respite is now, not later. But organizers running the emergency shelter say that changing the trigger points for opening from 35 degrees to 40 would add to the operational costs at a time when the County of Santa Barbara has already increased its commitment to the shelter by $101,000.
According to Erin Wilson — who, along with Unitarian minister Julia Hamilton, is overseeing this year’s operations— this year’s total budget is $350,000; last year, by contrast, it was $250,000. That money buys the community up to 50 nights of emergency winter shelter.