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Warming shelter set to open Sunday in North San Juan

Know & Go

What: North San Juan Warming Shelter

When: 5 p.m. Sunday to 8 a.m. Monday

Where: North San Juan Community Center, 29190 Highway 49

For info: Go to the NSJ Warming Shelter page on Facebook

During last February’s snowstorms, the community of North San Juan came together to start its own warming shelter for homeless residents.

They’re back at it this weekend, and on Sunday night will open a warming shelter at the North San Juan Community Center. According to the National Weather Service, there will be heavy rain today and showers Sunday, with temperatures dipping into the 30s Sunday night.

Community Center Board President Avani Leitz said the shelter was initially put together in February as a spontaneous volunteer project. Initially, she said, the group communicated mostly via Messenger.

“This time, we wanted to make it easier for people to plug in and find out what our needs are,” Leitz said.

In late November, she created a “NSJ Warming Shelter” Facebook page, with a stated mission “to maintain an emergency response in the case of extreme winter weather that provides warm, dry shelter, an evening meal, beds for the night, a morning breakfast, and help connect participants to helpful community resources, and to do all of this as a cooperative community service.”

Leitz invited anyone wanting to get involved to connect through the page.

“For nights that we are open, we will create an ‘event’ for the night and organize who’s hosting and meals there for everyone to see,” she wrote.

After a meeting earlier this week, the group decided to open the shelter if it’s wet or raining and below 37 degrees, or to open on the fourth night of consecutive rain. Rick Silva will be the main house host when the shelter is open along with a second volunteer host, Leitz said, noting the shelter requires two overnight hosts.

Grant money

The community center has received a $15,000 grant from the county to upgrade the facility with a new freezer and an emergency generator, among other items, Leitz said. But those funds have not yet been released pending some paperwork.

“We want to do this as community-funded as possible, so we don’t have to adhere to county guidelines of when we open,” she explained. “We want to be autonomous, to have the power to serve our community.”

To that end, Leitz said, the warming shelter is using donations, volunteer efforts and Food Bank resources.

“We got a grant from BriarPatch for food as well,” she said.

Right now, Leitz said, she has enough volunteers. The big need is for blankets, which will be given out to people to take back to their camps, along with warm clothes: jackets, socks, hats and gloves.

Anyone wanting to make a monetary donation can mail checks to the North San Juan Community Center, P.O. Box 324, North San Juan, CA, 95960.

Leitz is particularly excited that the pollinator and vegetable garden launched this year produced enough to help feed guests during the warming shelter.

“It gives people access to fresh vegetables, a place to sit and enjoy flowers, to have a peaceful place to be,” she said. “I’m really happy we had such a great garden season this summer, so we have extra root vegetables to be used for this endeavor.”

Some of the salsa and jams made during canning classes at the center this year also will be used to feed guests, Leitz said.

“It’s nice to have this full circle service model,” she said. “It’s a work in progress. We’re doing our best with the resources we have available.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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