Winter homeless shelters in Watsonville, Santa Cruz open

Shanna McCord

Santa Cruz Sentinel:   11/15/2012SANTA CRUZ — Homeless service providers in Santa Cruz County opened their winter shelters just as the nights have become cold and rain is forecast.

The Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz and the Pajaro Rescue Mission in Watsonville started offering emergency overnight shelter Thursday.

Each organization will have about 100 beds available every night.

“There’s far more homeless than the 110 we can serve,” said Mike Borden, executive director of the Pajaro Rescue Mission. “We’ll be prepared to fill every bed. It’s huge, especially with this economic climate.”

In Watsonville, the Pajaro Rescue Mission has taken over two Salvation Army buildings to operate as winter shelters through April, and possibly year round if money allows, Borden said.

Thursday, Pajaro Rescue Mission and Teen Challenge Monterey Bay officially opened Grace Harbor, the former Salvation Army shelter on Union and Grant. Another shelter opened on Maple Street.

Eric Tiller stood outside, watching the ribbon-cutting ceremony and waiting for the 5:45 p.m. opening. He said he’d been homeless off and on for 13 years due to a mental disability, and didn’t know where he’d sleep Thursday if he couldn’t get into the shelter. The timing of its opening, he said, couldn’t be better.

“This is a good thing for me and other people,” Tiller said. “I heard on the weather it’s going to rain tonight.”

The Salvation Army in Watsonville announced in June that it would no longer provide homeless shelters due to budget constraints, which prompted the Rescue Mission to step in and take over the shelter programs by covering the cost of utilities, Borden said.

The shelters, called Grace Harbor, are at 112 Grant Ave. and 104 Maple St. and will be open 6 p.m.-6 a.m.

The Grant Avenue location will serve men with 40 beds and the Maple Street shelter has 28 beds for women.

The Rescue Mission has 40 beds for homeless at 111 Railroad Ave. in Pajaro.

Three meals will be served each day at the Watsonville shelters with food provided by Second Harvest Food Bank, Borden said.

A fundraising drive is under way to cover the $20,000 monthly cost of running the shelters. So far, $10,000 has been collected, according to Borden.

Thursday, County Supervisor Greg Caput pledged to give $8,250 to both Pajaro Rescue Mission shelters, a campaign promise to donate part of his salary.

He’ll give half each to the women’s and men’s shelters on Christmas Day, and he plans to do the same in March.

Caput wants the community to match his contributions.

According to Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano, some of that already has been raised.

The Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz will operate its winter shelter at the National Guard Armory through April 15, Executive Director Monica Martinez said.

Participants are required to sign up for the shelter by arriving to the 115 Coral St. center around 3:30 p.m. each day. Dinner will be served at 4 p.m. Buses to the Armory begin at 5 p.m.

At the Armory, folks will go through a security screening and be entered into a federal homeless management information system database before given a mat and blanket to sleep, Martinez said.

Buses will take people back to town around 7 a.m., she said.

In addition, there are 46 shelter beds available at the Paul Lee Loft at the Coral Street campus. The loft has a six-week waiting list.

“It gets incredibly cold and wet during the winter, so providing people with warm covered shelter is really lifesaving,” Martinez said. “It’s an opportunity for us to embrace these folks and build relationships with them so we can continue to offer them other services.”

There are an estimated 2,900 homeless people in Santa Cruz County, according to a count done in 2011. Another homeless count will be conducted Jan. 22.

Martinez said her organization also is in need of blankets donations for the winter shelter. Donations can be brought to the shelter.


Robert Norse· Top Commenter

The article fails to mention that it is illegal for those homeless unable to access these shelters (90%) to shelter themselves (i.e. “camp”).In Santa Cruz the relevant Municipal Code is MC 6.36 which bans sleeping and covering up after 11 PM outside on public property and camping with protective tents at any time.

Ticketing for these “crimes” increased fourfold over the summer as police confiscated or destroyed the property and protective fear of hundreds of homeless people as part of a hysterical “Not in My Back Yard” police response which is documented on the SCPD police blog.

Will Councilmember Posner raise is voice and demand an end to these raids as well as this abusive law?
Not likely from his election statements.

The community needs to directly support the homeless community if it attempts to create life-sustaining encampments. Winter is coming.

James Nay Sr. · Santa Rosa JC

Also the lock you up and mark who you are just to get in!

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