Freedom Warming Centers
The mission of the Freedom Warming Centers is to save lives and reduce suffering for our neighbors without homes. When extreme winter weather is forecast for Santa Barbara County, we provide a safe, dry, and warm place to sleep. The Unitarian Society acts as the organizing force and fiscal agent for this county-wide, multi-faith grassroots effort.
The Warming Centers are a last resort for the unsheltered homeless. Sobriety is not a requirement and we accept anyone regardless of their physical or mental health. The only thing we ask is that guests remain calm and respectful. Guests who are not able to find shelter in our warming centers will eventually seek shelter in business doorways, our emergency rooms, and jails. When they do not find shelter, they risk death and suffering due to illness or hypothermia. Simply put, the Freedom Warming Centers save lives.
We coordinate locations in Lompoc, Santa Maria, Isla Vista, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Santa Barbara. Our guests include emancipated foster youth and those with chronic terminal illness, mental illness, or physical disabilities. We have served guests who are wheelchair-bound, unemployed, underemployed, living out of their cars, struggling with addiction, escaping abuse, or just released from jail. We serve couples and individuals, young adults, senior citizens, veterans, and sometimes an animal companion or two. Our trained overnight staff is on-site to keep people safe and ensure that our host sites are respected.
- 2013-2014 we provided 2,373 beds in 31 nights.
- 2012-2013 we provided 4,182 beds in 48 nights.
- 2011-2012 we provided 2,858 beds in 36 nights (50 nights in Lompoc)
- 2010-2011 we provided 1,736 beds in 35 nights.
The Centers were started in 2009 after the death of a homeless man called “Freedom” here in downtown Santa Barbara, and they rely on collaboration between individual volunteers, faith communities, public funding, private donations, paid staff, and other nonprofits that work with people on the streets. We have made great strides in improving both the day-to-day operations of the Freedom Warming Center program as well as increasing our partnerships, and we have seen a remarkable decrease in the number of deaths due to exposure each winter. Together, we save lives and give people the chance at another day.