Gratitude, but concern over Santa Rosa warming shelters for homeless that some say opened too late

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Freeze warnings are hitting much of the Bay Area this week. In Santa Rosa, warming shelters and centers have opened to try and help those without homes, but some say they should have been open a few nights ago.

"I was shivering so bad, my stomach and my back were all tightened up and cracking, and I could hardly walk the whole next day," said Shawn Burton, who is currently living on the streets of Santa Rosa.

Burton was describing what last Sunday night was like, with nowhere to go as temperatures dropped.

"My body is so sore and that's what makes you want to drink because you hurt all over," said Burton.

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Tuesday night, Burton is staying at the Arlene Francis Center.

It was opened by community members last-minute as a way to shelter some of the nearly 2,000 people experiencing homelessness in Sonoma County.

"One of our friends brought cots and blankets. Colleen made chili and we're going to have hot chocolate," said Martin Hamilton, who is director of the Arlene Francis Center.

A line was forming while ABC7 News was outside the Catholic Charities warming center, funded by the city, and just blocks from the Arlene Francis Center.

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The Bay Area was blanketed with hail, snow and rain Tuesday evening as a chilly winter storm moved through the region.



While there aren't beds here, there are heaters outside, and there is transportation available to take individuals to the city shelter that has additional beds.

"We're going to have patio heaters, warm clothing giveaways, we're going to have warm food, drinks, all of those things for people. Just trying to help them get through the next few nights," says Jennielynn Holmes of Catholic Charities.
Some we talked with on the street said, it's about time.

"Personally I think it should have opened three days ago when it started getting cold three days ago. Thank the Lord for these places, they just need to stay open and be open when they should be open," said Everett Lincoln who lives on the street.

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As for those who are now warm tonight, they are grateful.

"But it was just too cold outside and I prayed from my heart to the universe or God or whatever, and I thought about my relatives and things, and about changing my path and then all of a sudden this opportunity came up, really a blessing," says Burton.

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The Arlene Francis Center at 99 W. Sixth Street in Santa Rosa will be open Tuesday and Wednesday night, possibly Thursday night. The Catholic Charities warming center at 610 Wilson Street in Santa Rosa will be open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night. The entrance to that site is on 7th between Wilson and Davis Street.

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