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Guerneville church reconsidered as site of homeless shelter

A Guerneville committee is reconsidering using the Community Church as the site for a temporary winter shelter for the homeless because it is next to the elementary school.

"I know we need to offer help to the homeless, but I feel very strongly it cannot share a boundary with the school for the safety of the kids," said Elaine Carlson, superintendent and principal of Guerneville Elementary School.

The winter shelter was set to open at the Guerneville Community Church no later than Dec. 1, but now a committee has been formed and will meet Wednesday to consider other locations, said Katrina Thurman, executive director of West County Community Services, a nonprofit social services agency.

"It is already cold on the river; we had hoped to open Nov. 15, but it won't be later than Dec. 1, the weather is too harsh," Thurman said. "This is emergency shelter as a life-saving measure."

The shelter has been moved around Guerneville for years, but for the past three has been in the Veterans Memorial Building.

Supervisor Efren Carrillo said the veterans hall is likely to be available again this year, but the Board of Supervisors will have to approve covering the additional cost, $35,000 to $50,000.

"We are pressed for time and we are pressed for resources," Carrillo said. "It is issue of cost. There is a cost reduction of having it at the church and the church was seeing it as a revenue enhancer."

Guerneville Elementary School has 387 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Carlson said she is concerned about homeless people loitering around the church when the shelter is not open or coming over to school grounds.

Students also go through the Community Church parking lot to avoid walking or riding bikes on Armstrong Woods Road, which doesn't have sidewalks or lights.

Carlson, school parents and some Armstrong Woods Road residents voiced their concerns at a meeting Thursday of the River Area Shelter and Downtown Task Group. It was at that meeting that the new committee was formed to consider a temporary shelter at the veterans hall instead of the church.


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