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Santa Barbara OKs Funding for Overflow Warming Center

City Council also approves financing improvements to the Police Department building, including $146,300 for designing a new HVAC system

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday approved more funding for the Freedom Warming Centers because they need to open overflow locations this winter. 

The Unitarian Society runs the emergency overnight shelters in Santa Barbara County and has been serving more people since the Casa Esperanza homeless shelter became a sobriety-based program this fall.

The City Council unanimously approved $15,000 in additional funding at Tuesday’s meeting.

Warming centers are hosted in local churches and have already been open for eight nights this year for rain or cold weather, according to Unitarian Society coordinator Maria Long.

The overflow site is activated when the other location is at 90 percent capacity, said Sue Gray of the city’s Community Development department. Warming shelters expect about 50 extra people coming each night due to the programming changes at Casa Esperanza.

Warming centers already have served 597 beds this winter, and 461 of those beds were within Santa Barbara, Long said, adding that the overflow site was already activated the last three nights by pulling in favors from other congregations.

The extra funding for staff, transportation, supplies and insurance will keep another location open for the winter. It will cost $40,000 for an extra center, and the Unitarian Society will go to Santa Barbara County, local nonprofits, foundations and private donors to make up the difference.

For more information about the warming center locations, hours and operation, click here for the Unitarian Society’s website.

The City Council also approved funding for improvements to the Police Department building, including $146,300 for designing a new HVAC system. The city wants to design a new station to replace the 50-year-old building, but there hasn’t been money identified for the purpose yet.

The firm chosen for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system had been hired in 2009 to design the HVAC system for the proposed new police station, according to city staff.

Council members also acknowledged a $215,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that will be used for a vehicle access security gate project at the police station.

Reporting from closed session, the council appointed assistant city attorney Sarah Knecht to serve as acting city attorney once City Attorney Steve Wiley retires Dec. 28.

Knecht has been with the city since 2004 and will help the department have a smooth transition while the city recruits for a permanent replacement, Mayor Helene Schneider said.

The city expects to find and appoint a new city attorney early next year.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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