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.
Warming Center Volunteer Signups 2017-18
Winter will soon approach, and this means that the Freedom Warming Centers – the emergency overnight shelters for our neighbors without homes – will be up and running soon. We are asking you – yes, you! – to volunteer to join a Hospitality Team.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to do something concrete and tangible to help our community. Cooking a good meal and sharing it with our guests at the Warming Centers is now a part of our culture of caring here at the Unitarian Society. We need about 80 volunteers each year to make this happen!
You can sign up here.
We will organize our teams in a similar way again this year, with a team for each day of the week. We are offering a Warming Shelter Team training at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29.
Thank you for considering and signing up to be part of our effort to provide a hot meal for our homeless guests when we are activated as a warming center. An activation notice is sent out 48 hours in advance, if the weather forecast calls for temperatures below 35 or at least a 50% chance of rain.
This 2017-18 Warming Center Season we are on call for the following weeks:
December 17-25 (we will activate on Christmas Eve 12/24 and Christmas Day night 12/25 regardless of weather)
January 14-15 (partial week)
January 28-February 3
When we are activated, the team in charge of that night is set in motion. Teams are in charge of the following:
- Preparing a simple, hot and filling meal that can feed 60 people. (We’ve got recipes!)
- Serving the meal to our guests the night we are activated – we usually start serving around 6:15pm.
- Cleaning up the kitchen after activation.
I look forward for the opportunity to work with you in support of the Warming Centers this year.