Freedom Warming Centers
Dear Friends and Neighbors of the Freedom Warming Centers,
When we created the Warming Centers ten years ago, we had no idea that the challenges we would face would be so much greater than a heavy rain or a cold snap. We have worked through the fires and mudslides, navigated our expansion from downtown Santa Barbara into becoming a county-wide temporary, emergency shelter. We are not a solution to the problem of homelessness, but we are hoping to save lives while larger, systemic change is accomplished.
We do this because we love and care for each and every person in our community and are committed to the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable among us.
That commitment to the health and wellbeing of those living on the streets is what has led us to suspend activations at this time. We can activate with rain, flood, fire and mud, but we cannot keep vulnerable people close together while the COVID-19 virus is active among us. It is a crisis of a totally different nature, and the Warming Centers are not the appropriate solution to this particular problem.
We implore our County and City leaders to make plans to care for our houseless neighbors during this time – an emergency plan that doesn’t account for their health and wellbeing is not complete. All of California is struggling with what to do during this moment, and there are so many unanswered questions, but we will have to be brave, creative, compassionate and committed to following the guidance of science and medical care providers.
I only hope that this reignites our commitment to making the long-term systemic changes that will keep us from being put into this situation again. It is a hard thing, to listen to the rain on my own roof and know that others have no shelter. It is a hard thing to turn people away on a cold night. I hope that other solutions will emerge. And to all the congregations, clergy, volunteers, warming center staff, elected officials and city and county staff who have worked so hard to keep us running all these years, thank you. The Warming Centers will be here in the next season, when we are on the other side of this pandemic.
With Love and Gratitude,
Rev. Julia Hamilton
Lead Minister at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara
Coordinating congregation for the Freedom Warming Centers