CLEARLAKE, Calif. – A newly opened warming center in the city of Clearlake kept several people out of the cold from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, and will remain open during freezing nights into next week.
Lake Family Resource Center, with assistance from the county of Lake, opened the warming center on Tuesday at its Clearlake office, located at 15312 Lakeshore Drive, as Lake County News has reported.
It's open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day, and is expected to follow those hours through next Monday, according to Lake Family Resource Center Executive Director Gloria Flaherty, who went to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to ask for county assistance.
Flaherty intends to go back to the board for a scheduled discussion next Tuesday on next steps in the effort to shelter the homeless during the freezing winter nights, “which is what my goal, honestly, is.”
Lake County has no homeless shelter, despite having a homeless count of approximately 188, based on a “point-in-time” count last January.
Lake Family Resource Center took the lead in opening the warming center “because it needed to happen,” Flaherty said, adding that no other group in the county has wanted to take responsibility for being the homeless agency.
The bitterly cold nights that the county has experienced in recent days caused Flaherty to take action.
“I couldn’t sleep last weekend and decided this is ridiculous, we're just going to do this,” she said.
So she went to the supervisors on Tuesday and received support to have Social Services Department staff be paid to volunteer at the center.
The call that went out to the community also was answered with an outpouring of support, she said.
“It is amazing how this community pulls together very quickly,” she said.
In addition to the help from Social Services staff, which is covering most of the overnight shifts, Flaherty said they received help from Clearlake City Councilwoman Jeri Spittler, who has lined up food, Lakeside Appliance donated a refrigerator for use when the center is open and St. Helena Hospital Clear Lake has used its van to transport people back and forth from a homeless camp.
Then there are the community members who stepped up. “Individuals in this county have just been amazing,” she said.
People who have hardly anything themselves have been bringing in what they can, she said. “It's heartwarming.”
On Wednesday, Flaherty was again tired, but this time it wasn't because of lack of sleep due to lying awake worrying, as she had last weekend; rather, it was from working at the shelter late Tuesday, which she called a “wonderful” experience.
Seven people used the center overnight, and she expects more to come on Wednesday and the rest of the nights this week as the word continues to get out in the community through fliers, the media, local agencies and word of mouth.
As she prepares to speak to the board next Tuesday, Flaherty is planning to talk to other agencies about who will be the lead going forward on the effort to help the homeless population. One of the key questions will be what it will take in the way of resources to continue to safeguard the homeless during cold winter nights.
“Nobody has any funding for it,” she said, so the donations of cash that Lake Family Resource Center has received – which totaled about $1,500 on Wednesday – will be crucial.
Flaherty said the people who she spoke to who used the warming center on Tuesday night have all lived in Lake County for decades. “They, too, are part of our community,” she said.
She added, “By opening a warming center we are not attracting the homeless population to Lake County. We are taking care of our own.”
Lake Family Resource Center is continuing to seek cash, food and clothing donations, she said.
Flaherty said they can never have too many socks or gloves, from sizes medium and up for both men and women.
While they have not yet had children at the center, she expects them to come, and so donations of children's clothing – particularly socks and jackets – also are requested.
Flaherty said they also would like to have food items on hand that don't require cooking, which people can take with them when leaving the center.
Cash donations also will help cover utilities and other needs, Flaherty said.
In addition to seeking donations of cash, clothing and food, Flaherty said Lake Family Resource Center is continuing to seek volunteers.
Anyone interested in working shifts at the warming center is encouraged to call Beth Berinti at Lake Family Resource Center, 707-279-0563.
Email Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com . Follow her on Twitter, @ERLarson, or Lake County News, @LakeCoNews.