VALLEJO – The city of Vallejo plans to reopen a warming shelter in South Vallejo this week for people experiencing homeless to get out of forecasted cold weather.
When the same shelter was open earlier this month only one person used it.
The city plans to reopen the shelter, located at the Norman C. King Community Center at 545 Magazine St., tonight through Thursday, from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. No rain is forecast but temperatures are expected to drop to the low 30s throughout the week, according to the National Weather Service.
The city is encouraging anyone who plans to use the shelter to bring their own blankets or a sleeping bag, though the city says that “a limited number of blankets and pillows” will be available. The city also says that participants “will be limited to bringing in one small bag of personal items as space is limited” and pets are not allowed.
City spokesperson Christina Lee confirmed to the Vallejo Sun on Monday that only one person had used the shelter when it was open on Dec. 1 and 2.
“This is the first time the City has made a strong effort to open these types of shelters, we anticipate that it will take some time for it to be known amongst community members that the City offers a resource like this,” Lee said in an email. “This is why we are trying to reach out through all of our different channels of communication.”
Lee said that the city is spreading the word through community organizations doing homeless outreach and will be sharing flyers with police and firefighters on duty to tell people they encounter who might need shelter.
Councilmember Cristina Arriola, who represents District 6 where the shelter is located, said she volunteered at the shelter the first night it was open and that the lone person who stayed there didn’t even live in Vallejo — he took a bus from Vacaville and rode his bike to the shelter.
“I have no idea how he heard about it when I barely heard about it,” Arriola said.
“This was a last-minute, delayed response and it's posted on social media,” she said. “It's just one big failure of the city of Vallejo when it comes to communication on any level.”
Arriola said that the shelter’s location in South Vallejo also makes it difficult for residents to travel there as it is far from the northern and western areas of the city where numerous homeless people are located. While buses are available, SolTrans frequently cancels late buses due to driver shortages, so people may not be able to make it there for the shelter’s opening time at 8:30 p.m.
Lee said that other activities at the community center — operated by the Greater Vallejo Recreation District — made it so the shelter could not open any earlier. She said the city is “looking into all options for transportation to get people to the shelter at this point.”
Arriola also criticized that the shelter had no cots, no divisions in its large room, particularly to offer privacy on the basis of gender, nor any food available for those in the shelter.
"It’s on the floor, bring your own bag, your own blanket. You've got to schlep all that stuff on the bus,” she said. “You're not going to get a good night's sleep."
The city did not offer the shelter over the weekend, when there was cold conditions and torrential rain. A man in his 60s was found dead on the street at the corner of Pennsylvania and Marin streets on Sunday afternoon, but Vallejo police spokesperson Sgt. Rashad Hollis said the department could not say if the person was homeless. Hollis said police investigators did not see any evidence of foul play.
Lee said that the city is looking into planning ahead so that shelters will be open when the weather gets dangerously hot or cold.
“It's very much a ‘build the bike as you ride it’ type of situation,” Lee said. “Our staff who are managing this project are also looking to other organizations that offer this type of resource to learn more about what their process is for opening these types of spaces, as well as taking input from community members on alternative ways to proceed and/or additional services we should consider in addition to just opening a temporary shelter.”
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
Investigative reporting, regular updates, events and more
- Greater Vallejo Recreation District
- Cristina Arriola
- Christina Lee
- Norman C. King Community Center
Scott Morris is a journalist based in Oakland who covers policing, protest, civil rights and far-right extremism. His work has been published in ProPublica, the Appeal and Oaklandside.
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