Down Came The Rains

Posted: January 5, 2008 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

A large part of California’s central coast took an absolute drenching yesterday. And there were also extremely high winds – 60 mile per hour winds in some places. The winds were so ferocious that some power lines came down. County wide some 20,000 people were without power. Not exactly the type of weather that most people across the United States think of when they think of "sunny" California. And the weather forecast for today doesn’t look at that great either. The rain is expected to continue (DUH!).  

In San Luis Obispo, under normal circumstances, those who have been homeless for some time don’t really worry about finding a place to sleep. If they can’t get into the homeless shelter on any given night, they grab a sleeping bag or blanket that they’ve kept "stashed" and hidden somewhere and find some out of the way place and "roll out." Come the next morning they "roll up," stash their sleeping gear back where it was and go on with their day.

Some of SLO’s homeless don’t even try getting into the shelter at all. In fact, there are some who don’t want to go near the shelter unless they absolutely must. The reasons why a person can’t or won’t go to the shelter vary. But weather like yesterday’s drives almost everyone the community’s to try and find a bed at the shelter.

Even those who have been homeless for a while probably tried getting a bed at the shelter last night. The problem is that there are simply not enough beds to go around. With only 49 beds at the shelter itself and an additional 20 to 35 beds at the women and children’s overflow facility, at most only 84 beds were available to house the city’s 300+ homeless. That means that there were some 216 people who had to try and find a place to sleep last night that would hopefully keep them out of the weather. Not an easy task.

There were probably quite a number of non-homeless people who ended up getting drenched themselves yesterday. But the one thing that they probably took for granted was that they were able to go home, take off their soaking wet clothing, jump in the shower, dry off and then stay dry through out the night.

For over 200 of the community’s homeless such an option wasn’t available. If they were lucky, they had a spare set of clothes that were dry and were able to find someplace where they could change. Chances are however that they didn’t have an extra or dry pair of shoes to put on in place of the soaked pair they were wearing.

For those who didn’t have a dry set of clothes, the night was spent sleeping (or at least trying to sleep) in clothing that was as wet as if it had come out of a washing machine without having been put into a clothes dryer.

There are those homeless who have their "camps" set up. I’m wondering how many of those camps remained intact. How many were destroyed by the high winds? How many, despite their best efforts to weatherproof their tents, found themselves getting rained on even inside their tents? How many found their tents getting flooded?

There were high winds during one of last years winter storms and it caused a limb on a tree that someone was camped under to come crashing down onto their tent. Fortunately the person wasn’t in their tent when that occurred.

I’m wondering how many people are still without power this morning. I’m sure that some of them are grumbling and complaining about that. But maybe they should look out their windows and count their blessings that, unlike the homeless in this community, they don’t have to live out in this weather.

Compared to having to actually try and find a place to sleep in weather like SLO County is currently having, being without electricity is a breeze.

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