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.
The River Area Shelter and Downtown Task Group has been meeting since August to consider sites for a permanent homeless services center as well as the winter shelter, said John Haig of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.
Out of 200 Guerneville are sites that had been considered for a permanent shelter, the committee developed a final list of eight. The Guerneville Community Church and two other sites on Armstrong Woods Road were the top choices.
But because of the concerns raised Thursday about having a temporary shelter near the school, the preferred permanent site now may be two vacant lots that total almost 1.5 acres in the River Road commercial area east of Guerneville, Haig said.
A final recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on the site for a permanent shelter is expected to be made by Dec. 10.
How to help
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Cazares family. To donate, go here.