Sonoma County emergency shelters are full this week as homeless people try to escape sub-freezing nighttime temperatures.
The mercury was expected to hit a low of 31 degrees early today in Santa Rosa after lows of 27 degrees early Thursday and 28 degrees Wednesday. And warmer weather is forecast for the next few nights.
“We've been on overflow for about a week and a half now,” said Jennielynn Holmes-Davis, program manager at the Catholic Charities Family Support Center on A Street. The 120-bed facility got city permission to add 18 beds on a temporary basis.
With other facilities also at full capacity, thousands of people remain without indoor shelter. They are camping along the railroad tracks, at the coast, under bridges, in cars, beside trails and riding buses as late as they run.
“I can't get in until the 20th,” said Larry Boody, 41, who is on the waiting list at Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square.
“It's cold,” he said, smoking a cigarette in downtown Santa Rosa on Wednesday afternoon. His shopping cart of possessions held a blanket.
“It is so brutal,” said Jeff Gilman, the Redwood Gospel Mission's executive director. I can't imagine what it's like. ... All the shelters are full, there's no place to go.”
The Sixth Street mission has added beds in its chapel, and now has room for 150 men, Gilman said.
There were 3,366 people living outside in Sonoma County in January 2011, and 534 shelter beds, the most recent official census of homeless found.
While the cold is hard, the good news is that at least it's not raining, said Mike Johnson, chief operating officer for Petaluma's Committee on the Shelterless, or COTS.
“For the folks out there on a regular basis, they've got the survival skills to weather the cold, typically,” he said. “But when it rains as well, it becomes really intolerable.”