Editorials

Cold-weather relief needed for homeless

How cold was it? On Tuesday night, it was a frigid 21 degrees in Creston; 30 in Nipomo; and 36 in San Luis Obispo. Temperatures were forecast to be only slightly higher Wednesday night.

To state the obvious, it is December, and low temperatures are to be expected. Given that, we wonder why local officials weren’t better prepared to open an overnight warming station for homeless people when temperatures dipped this week.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors did allocate $5,000 Tuesday so that Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo could keep its doors open at night, but that covers only half the budget for the program. The county hopes that the city of San Luis Obispo and the Friends of Prado will contribute the remainder of the funds.

Given the urgent need for a cold-weather shelter, such last-minute arrangements leave too much to chance.

Consider: By the time San Luis Obispo County had allocated partial funding, Santa Barbara County already had opened warming stations in Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Santa Maria.

While we recognize that there are many demands on government these days, we aren’t talking about a great deal of money here. Surely, the county and city could find a way to automatically allocate funds so there doesn’t have to be eleventh-hour scrambling to open a warming center when it’s freezing outside.

And while we’re on the subject, what about other communities in San Luis Obispo County? Is one warming station in San Luis Obispo adequate to serve needs of homeless people living in other parts of the county?

County Supervisor Adam Hill, who has been a major advocate for homeless services, said he’s asked county administration to look into whether there may be county facilities that could provide shelter at night in freezing weather.

“The last thing anyone wants is someone literally dying from the weather,” Hill said.

Exactly.

Warming stations are not a substitute for full-service homeless shelters, but they are acost-effective way to provide protection from extreme weather.

We strongly urge officials to develop a countywide plan that will provide a stable source of funding and support for warming stations as soon as they are needed— not two or three or four days later.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.

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