With a cold low-pressure system expected to send nighttime temperatures below freezing later this week, local homeless advocates are working to make sure that those living on the streets of Santa Barbara County have a warm place to retreat from the elements.
The cold front is expected to move into Santa Barbara County on Tuesday, and temperatures could dip into the 20s and 30s at night Wednesday through Friday.
The National Weather Service said daytime conditions are likely to include mostly clear skies and daytime highs in the mid-50s to low 60s, but overnight lows could drop to the mid-20s to mid-30s Wednesday through Saturday, and could to remain well below freezing for several hours.
As a result, several warming centers will be activated across the county in community centers and churches, giving people a place to sleep out of the cold.
Maria Long, who coordinates the warming centers, said the group served 86 people on Thanksgiving night last week as well as the next day just on the South Coast.
The warming centers have been activated twice since Nov. 15.
Long said the centers won't be activated Wednesday because the temperatures won't low enough for them to open — the weather must be 35 degrees or lower, with a 50-percent chance of rain.
A center will open on Thursday and Friday, however, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St. in Santa Barbara, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. A center will also be open at St. Michael's University Church, 6586 Picasso Road in Isla Vista, on Thursday and Friday, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on both dates.
In Santa Maria, the New Love Community Center, 1619 Thornburg St., will be hosting a center on Thursday and Friday, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on both dates.
Because the churches rotate, next week the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara St., will be hosting the centers if they are activated because of the weather.
Long said that the warming centers recorded 4,184 visits during the 48 nights they were open last year because of inclement weather or low temperatures.
Santa Barbara shelter Casa Esperanza, at 816 Cacique St., opened its winter shelter on Sunday, and can now accept up to 200 more people with the increase in beds, said Mike Foley, the shelter's executive director.
"This is our first year in which sobriety is a requirement," he said, adding that last year it opened the winter shelter with 153 people. "This year, we opened with 159. This was a positive development."
Jill Wallerstedt of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission said the organization will continue to accept people, no matter the weather, but would be publicizing the warming centers.
On Tuesday, the Goleta City Council will also be discussing whether to allow the Goleta Valley Community Center to apply for a temporary overnight camping permit. Though the item isn't specifically related to inclement weather, the permit being discussed would allow two vehicles to park in the lot overnight, giving shelter to homeless residents.
The property at 5679 Hollister Ave. is owned by the city and leased to the community center, which has asked the city to allow the temporary overnight parking.
The effort is being spearheaded by New Beginnings Counseling Center’s Safe Parking Program, which would screen applicants and manage the participation in the program, and the item will be included on the council's consent calendar.