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Frigid Temperatures Put San Diego’s Homeless At Risk

Audio

Aired 2/24/11

San Diego is in for another weekend of wild weather. Frigid temperatures, rain, and low-elevation-snow are headed this way.

A cold storm system from British Columbia is expected to blow through San Diego starting Friday, bringing frigid temperatures, rain, and low-elevation snow throughout the county, according to the National Weather Service.

A view of snow blanketing the trees and hillside at the 6,000 foot elevation on Mt. Laguna, taken from the Mount Laguna Retreat Center on Sunrise Highway, on February 20, 2011.
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Above: A view of snow blanketing the trees and hillside at the 6,000 foot elevation on Mt. Laguna, taken from the Mount Laguna Retreat Center on Sunrise Highway, on February 20, 2011.

National Weather Service San Diego

Winter Storm Watch


Emergency Homeless Shelter Donations Needed

The Alpha Project, manager of San Diego's winter homeless shelter, is in "critical need" of blankets, sleeping bags and rolls of plastic. Donations can be dropped off at the shelter, located at 1625 Newton Ave., or at the Neil Good Day Center located at 299 17th st.

San Diego forecasters issued a winter storm watch for East County areas above the 3,500 foot level, from Friday evening through Saturday.

Forecaster Miguel Miller said residents in Valley Center, Alpine and Ramona could wake up Saturday to a dusting of snow on their doorsteps.

“You could probably see snow falling as low as 1,000 feet or 1,500 feet, but it probably won’t stick to the ground as official measured snowfall until 1,500 or 2,000 feet,” Miller explained.

Miller said temperatures could drop to the mid- to upper-30s in areas above 1,000 feet, and coastal and inland areas will be in the 40s and 50s.

The bitter cold temperatures could be life threatening for thousands of homeless people who won’t have any shelter. Father Joe’s Villages previously opened up their dining hall floors on cold nights to take in an extra 400 people. But Father Joe Carroll said this year, he can’t afford it.

Carroll said during storms, hundreds of homeless people take cover under downtown freeway overpasses, wrapped in blankets and plastic. "I live down there so I have to drive by them every night, feeling guilty because I’m going home to a warm bed."

Carroll said it costs $4,000 to open up the emergency dining hall shelter, to pay for security, food, water and other supplies.

"I know they’re freezing right now, but I just, I just don’t have the money,” said Carroll.

St. Vincent de Paul Villages cut $4 million from its operating budget this year and laid off 30 employees.

The city of San Diego winter homeless shelter, run by the Alpha Project, houses 220 people. Alpha Project workers announced Thursday they will open up the Neil Good Day Center starting Friday, to provide an extra 100 beds, and distribute blankets and plastic wraps to homeless people on the streets.

"We desperately need anything that can be used to help protect people from these harsh conditions," said Bob McElroy, president of the Alpha Project. "We need to make sure we are keeping as many people as we can safe and warm," he said in a written statement.

Other shelters around the county include: 50-bed Operation Hope in Vista; 50-bed Bread of Life in Oceanside; 40-bed Alliance for Regional Solutions in Escondido; and a 65-bed La Posada de Guadalupe, operated in Carlsbad by Catholic Charities.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless recently reported there are more than 8,800 homeless people in San Diego County.

Most won't have shelter this weekend.

Measurable snow has fallen in the city of San Diego five times in the past 125 years. The last was on December 13, 1967, according to the National Weather Service.

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