Homeless shelters overloaded, says church volunteer

By From page A1 | December 02, 2013

With winter coming on, the number of homeless using local churches for overnight shelter has increased, leading one of the volunteers associated with the program to put out a call for help.

Janis Carney, who is a member of Green Valley Community Church and also one of those involved in coordinating the shelter program, said there is need for more churches to step forward.

“We are stretched to capacity ever since the homeless camp — Hangtown Haven — closed,” Carney said, noting that to date they have had as many as 45 people needing a place to stay for the night.

“That was the highest number so far,” she said. “But once the first storm hits, we will get considerably more.”

Currently nine churches are providing assistance of some sort although only five are actually used as shelters. Those nine include Foothills United Methodist, Mercy Way Rescue Church, Green Valley Community Church, Solid Rock Faith Center, Christ Like Services, Cameron Park Christian, New Hope Fellowship Church, Cold Springs Community Church and Federated Church.

Carney said the capacity of the five churches varies from 37 at New Hope Fellowship Church to 50 at Green Valley Community Church. In the past week they have had anywhere from 37 to 45 people needing shelter every night.

“Most of the churches helping can comfortably handle 40 people,” she said. “Over that, it is a problem. But we won’t turn anyone away. What we do in that situation is open another building not set up to be a shelter. But then we need additional volunteers, more mats and sleeping bags.”

Last year, Carney said the average number of people needing shelter was between 30 and 35 when Hangtown Haven was in existence, although they had up to 50 to 60 one night when there was a storm.

Anticipating a similar surge in those needing overnight shelter once the winter weather sets in, Carney said they not only need more places for people to stay, but donations for more mats, sleeping bags, gasoline and other supplies.

Noting that most of those using the shelters are locals, Carney estimated that only four are from out of the area and are either transients, probationers who can’t leave the area, and possibly one from Tahoe who moved down the hill as the weather turned cold.

According to Carney, most of those using the shelter are men. They make up three-fourths of the total. However Carney said this year they are sheltering a couple and its two young children.

“We need to have more churches come on board,” she said. “We’d also like the city of Placerville and El Dorado County to work with us on an overflow location so we can handle additional people,” she said.

Cleve Morris, city manager for the city of Placerville said the city is operating a day shelter at Christ Like Services seven days a week during the daytime hours, but only about a dozen people regularly use it. In addition, on the second and fourth Saturday of the month it operates as an overnight shelter.

Confirming the number of those needing shelter, he said he heard the number was running between 40 and 45 people a night.

Morris said the city will be going to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors next Tuesday to ask it for $4,100 a month through March to help pay to operate the day shelter.

“Christ Like Services could on occasion be used as an overflow site,” he said, “but not on a regular basis.”

In the meantime, Carney said she and the other volunteers associated with the church-sponsored shelter program are scrambling to accommodate those who need shelter as the weather gets colder.

“The bottom line is we need more churches to step forward and we need a back up plan for the overflow,” she said.

Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.

Dawn Hodson

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