Helping Others

Sacramento’s warming center for homeless people will become a ‘weather refuge’

Stafford Nichols beds down for the night on a pool recliner inside a homeless “warming center” at the pool-house at Southside Park on Tuesday night, December 27, 2016. The warming center is scheduled to close the first week on January 2017.
Stafford Nichols beds down for the night on a pool recliner inside a homeless “warming center” at the pool-house at Southside Park on Tuesday night, December 27, 2016. The warming center is scheduled to close the first week on January 2017. jvillegas@sacbee.com

A homeless warming center in Southside Park will now open during rain in addition to cold weather.

The warming center will be renamed a “weather refuge center” and is expected to open during “the most severe stages of the current storm system,” according to a joint statement from the city and county.

The center will be open Tuesday night, when there is a 100 percent chance of rain and high wind warnings, according to the National Weather Service.

The center was closed over the weekend when heavy rains and water releases from Folsom Lake caused flooding along the American River, an area where many homeless people camp. Some community activists on Monday questioned that closure and whether the center should extend services during inclement weather.

“Regardless of temperature, being wet and being in the wind puts people at a health risk,” said Tamie Dramer of advocacy group Organize Sacramento. “These are humans that need shelter.”

The city and county partnered to open the warming center on Dec. 24 at the clubhouse in Southside Park at 2107 Sixth St. It’s part of a pilot program pushed by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to expand emergency homeless shelters throughout the winter.

Under normal procedures, warming centers are open only when temperatures are forecast below freezing for three consecutive nights. Steinberg said he thought the temperature barrier was arbitrary and wanted to ensure that at least one facility was open every night that falls below 40 degrees.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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