Temporary shelter gives “cold relief”

The chilly Davis weather means more than biking with gloves on, or swarmed study lounges. As many students celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, the homeless population is turning to local shelters for relief, and Davis Community Meals (DCM) is offering an extra solution.

The DCM cold weather shelter officially opened its doors for the season at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16, and will serve the Davis homeless community until Mar. 31. While DCM already operates another shelter year-round, the organization finds the need for refuge to increase in the winter months.

Bill Pride, the executive director of DCM, said the cold weather shelter helps to meet this additional demand for lodging. Based on a census conducted by DCM, the Davis community generally has 110 to 130 homeless individuals, 50 to 65 of which live out in the streets.

“There has been more homeless on the streets for a variety of reasons,” Pride said. “Job loss and shelter closings have created a larger homeless population than usual. [The shelter] serves a great need to get people out of the cold and rain.”

Throughout the year, the Davis community offers a total of 58 beds to both homeless individuals and families through shelters or transitional housing. The cold weather shelter is set apart from these existing facilities by one unique characteristic: residents do not have to be clean or sober to stay at this shelter.

“[Residents] cannot use here or bring illegal substances or alcohol on the premises,” Pride said. “They don’t need to be clean or sober, but those that aren’t usually only make up half the people that stay here.”

Other shelter rules include simply being respectful and avoiding altercations with other residents. While Price said there have been several instances where certain individuals were too intoxicated to stay, for the most part the shelter has run smoothly.

The facility is a small house located at the corner of E Street and 5th Street, and provides shelter for 10 individuals at a time. The resident break down is always two women and eight men. Pride attributes this ratio to patterns in the local homeless community.

“It mirrors the gender breakdown of the homeless population in Davis,” Pride said.

The house consists of a common living space, restrooms and three bedrooms. Two of the rooms contain two bunk beds to house four men in each, while one room contains one bunk bed for the two female residents.

Pride said the cold weather shelter provides housing on a night-to-night basis, and allows individuals to stay up to 14 consecutive nights. After checking out for one day, they have the option of checking back in for additional nights.

In regards to social services, the DCM Resource Center provides for the basic needs of these individuals. According to the Resource Center Coordinator, Inessa Snyder, the Resource Center is open to the general public Monday through Friday.

The center provides showers, laundry facilities, emergency food and clothing, mail services, telephone use and bus passes. The Resource Center also serves as a referral agency to individuals seeking rent assistance, and counseling services.

The shelter itself provides residents with food on a daily basis. DCM intern and UC Davis student, Colleen Burson-Ryan, said DCM counts on donated meals from churches and businesses in Davis.

Over 100 organizations and 2,500 individuals lend their services to the group in the form of volunteer service, financial contributions or in-kind donations. With these contributions DCM can host a variety of events for clients, such as a Thanksgiving dinner to be held this Thursday evening.

“Each week one business or church will provide the food for the shelter for the week,” Burson-Ryan said. “Davis residents can also provide things like sleeping bags and blankets that clients at DCM can use.”

Pride said the cold weather shelter has 25 to 30 volunteers alone, but DCM can always use more community support. Those interested in helping the cold weather shelter by volunteering or donating can contact them at (530) 220-4089.

AMANDA HARDWICK can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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