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Freeze warning issued, warming centers open for homeless in Sonoma County, aided by volunteers

With Sonoma County issuing a freeze warning for the next few nights and temperatures expected to drop to the upper 20s and 30s overnight for most areas starting Friday, Santa Rosa has announced it is opening a temporary drop-in warming center for those without homes.

County health officials recommend that all residents limit their time outdoors, as serious medical conditions including hypothermia and frostbite can develop with prolonged cold weather exposure.

In anticipation of the drop in temperatures a number of locations have been set up where those in need can keep warm.

The Santa Rosa warming center, which opened Thursday from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., will stay open until Sunday morning.

As a COVID-19 safety precaution, it has been located outdoors in Catholic Charities’ Homeless Service Center parking lot at 610 Wilson St. in Santa Rosa, and will be outfitted with pop-up tents warmed by low-profile radiant heaters.

Visitors will need to wear masks and observe 3-foot social distancing while there.

Masks will be provided and there will be a limit of 40 people allowed in. Visitors to the center looking for indoor emergency shelter will be given a referral.

Catholic Charities is seeking donations of tarps, sleeping bags, rain gear and socks. Donations my be dropped off from 8-10 p.m. Only new items will be accepted.

The Petaluma center is located at the Salvation Army, 721 McDowell Blvd. It was opened at 12:30 p.m. Thursday and will remain open through 8 p.m., Monday. Contact Petaluma People Services at 707-765-8488 for more information.

In the northern part of the county, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 209 W. Matheson St. in Healdsburg has a limited number of beds available. Contact Reach for Home at 707-433-6161 for more information.

In the western part of the county, the existing shelter at the Guerneville Veterans building is full, but West County Community Services is offering extra blankets, food and other care. The agency can be reached at 707-823-1640.

Volunteer groups also began setting up warming tents in Santa Rosa on Friday.

The goal “is to try to keep people alive,” said Miles Sarvis-Wilburn, 35, co-founder of the Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Coalition, an outreach group, and Mask Sonoma, a mutual aid organization.

One tent is near Stony Point Road and Hearn Avenue; a second is near Bicentennial Way and Range Avenue; and the third is near downtown Santa Rosa.

The tents and propane heaters were donated by Sonoma County Acts of Kindness, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the homeless. Sonoma Masks will be providing masks to homeless people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“They’re life-threatening temperatures,” Sarvis-Wilburn said. “And the county hasn’t done much to help these people stay warm.”

Leaders don’t plan on taking them down until they are no longer needed, Sarvis-Wilburn said.

If you or someone you know requires shelter during this cold period, call the Coordinated Entry System Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 866-542-5480 or email CE@srcharities.org.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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