Santa Maria warming center opens for big chill

Santa Maria warming center opens for big chill

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Despite California's reputation for seasonably mild weather and sun, we were hovering around freezing temperatures on Monday night.

What do people do without a roof over their heads, how do they stay warm?

A homeless man froze to death on the streets of Santa Barbara almost 10 years ago and since then, the need for short-term emergency shelters has been established up and down the Central Coast.  Santa Barbara County's first Freedom Warming Center, named to honor the homeless man, opened about a year after his death and since then has saved countless lives. 

When it dips below 40 degrees, Timothy Foster says it's hard for him to sleep.

"If you don't have emergency blankets, things like that, it's cold, you'll be shivering.  And the problem with shivering is it's just making you colder than you need to be," said Foster.

For the rest of the week, folks like Foster have a shield from these frigid temperatures.

"People were already at the door an hour before we opened just waiting to get warm and lay down," said Gail Jean Padilla, Lead with Freedom Warming Centers.

If there's two consecutive days of either rain or cold, the warming centers are activated.

"We activate more here for cold purposes then let's say Santa Barbara and then Lompoc is more often then here but the cold it is right now, the degrees, no it's not common," said Padilla.

Officials with Freedom Warming Centers say about 40 people will utilize the Santa Maria location each night they're open.

"This is a protected and safe environment," said Foster.

Outlooks like the one Foster have, seem to provide some warmth for everyone involved.

"Always gratitude for giving the opportunity to just come rest there head.  No questions, we're here.  Our mission is to give you someplace warm and a warm meal," said Padilla.

The Freedom Warming Center at the Santa Maria Salvation Army (200 W Cook St.) will be open from Monday, February 19th to Friday, February 23rd.  They can serve up to 72 people at that location. You can call the hotline at 805-324-2372 for more information.


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