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North County’s Winter Shelter Network For The Homeless Up

North County’s winter shelter network is preparing to open nearly 200 beds for the homeless on Dec. 1. The first 12 beds opened recently and are already occupied.

Aired 11/4/13 on KPBS News.

North County's winter shelter network for the homeless is in better shape than last year. But demand may also be higher.

Joe Zilvinskis, of the Alliance for Regional Solutions, said two permanent buildings — one for families and one for farm workers — are now operational in Vista and Carlsbad.

“We certainly are in better shape than last year,” he said, “ Last year we had construction issues that caused some of our shelters to have diminished capacity or shelters that were not able to open in December. This year we don’t have those hurdles stopping us.“

The Operation Hope Shelter for families in Vista, Under Construction last year

However, Zilvinskis said agencies are bracing for higher demand this year, as cuts in safety net programs like food stamps may put more families over the edge into homelessness.

He added that a “sobering services” site run by Interfaith Community Services in Escondido has been closed down due to zoning regulations. That site served as an overflow to the winter shelter program in North County last year and its closure may mean more homeless people seeking shelter have to be turned away this year.

The North County network will have four main shelters in Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad and Escondido. Bread of Life in Oceanside has been hit with cuts to its federal grants but is committed to opening in December with 50 beds.

The Operation Hope Shelter in Vista has transformed from a converted warehouse to a custom designed campus specifically for families with children. It has 46 beds. Due to a lack of funding, it has not been able to operate year round. Catholic Charities has built a new year round shelter for farm workers in Carlsbad and opens an extra 20 beds in winter.

Interfaith congregations in Rancho Bernardo and Poway inland, and from Encinitas to Del Mar along the coast offer two weeks of shelter for between ten and 20 homeless each, on a rotating basis. Zilvinski said the Interfaith Shelter Network is still looking for more congregations to work with, to add to the options available for the homeless this year.

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