Religion

Temporary winter shelter launches again for Citrus Heights homeless

Winter Shelter, Messiah Lutheran Church
Messiah Lutheran Church in Citrus Heights will again serve as a check-in center for a local rotating winter shelter program. // CH Sentinel

Sentinel staff report–
Local churches in partnership with the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART) are again launching a temporary winter shelter for Citrus Heights homeless during the cold and wet winter months.

The shelter program is scheduled for Dec. 30 through at least Feb. 23, and organizers are hopeful to extend the shelter into March if a few more churches sign on as a host site. As in prior years, the shelter will rotate to a different church each week, where up to 20 homeless guests will be given a hot meal and a warm place to stay overnight.

“This is an opportunity to break the cycle [of homelessness], offer them respite from the cold, some hot meals, and a chance to connect with people who can help them and take advantage of the resources that are already available so they can work their way back into society,” said Irene Hronicek, who chairs HART’s winter sanctuary committee.

Although having an immediate goal to provide temporary shelter for those without homes in the winter, HART’s ultimate mission is to help the homeless find permanent housing — and the organization says getting the often-roving homeless population in one room has proved to be helpful towards that end. Once on site, homeless will have an opportunity to connect with resources to help with alcohol and drug addiction, as well as contact the Citrus Heights Navigator for help with housing, obtaining identification, getting a bus pass and more.

“[The goal is] to put these folks in an environment where they have regular contact with resources… so they can walk the path out of homelessness,” said Hronicek, noting that many homeless don’t have an ID, which is a barrier to employment and housing. “When you’re out there just trying to figure out a place to sleep, you don’t wonder whether your ID is valid.”

The 2018-19 shelter is HART’s third year offering the rotating program, with last year’s program providing shelter to a combined total of about 70 homeless throughout the eight weeks it was offered. Guests this year will again check in at Messiah Lutheran Church, at the corner of Antelope Road and Rosswood Drive, and will then be taken by bus to whichever church is hosting the shelter that week.

Churches in Citrus Heights that are serving as host sites for the shelter this year are: Advent Lutheran, Celtic Cross Presbyterian, Holy Family Catholic Church, Antelope Road Christian Fellowship, and the Citrus Heights Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church is also serving as a host site for the shelter.

New this year is the involvement of SacRT, which has offered to provide transportation to-and-from the check-in site on weekdays. The Way Ministries will provide transportation on weekends, and donations and volunteers have also been provided by SMUD, Cub Scout Pack 22, Deseret Industries, and JustServe.

Hronicek said the shelter has a strict policy against alcohol and drug use, and guests will be vetted by volunteers at the check-in site. All guests will also be required to sign a 15-point “Rules of Conduct” agreement.

Homeless interested in the shelter are asked to arrive at Messiah Lutheran Church at 5 p.m. to have time to check in before the bus leaves at 6 p.m.

While HART has a goal to extend the shelter for a full 10 weeks, through March 9, 2019, organizers still have a need for a host church to fill in for the fifth week, which goes from Jan. 27-Feb. 2. The shelter will also be limited to an eight-week period, if additional churches can’t be found to fill in for the final two weeks.

“We haven’t given up hope, but we do need a host to commit for week five,” Hronicek said in a phone interview on Friday. “I don’t imagine we’ll have week nine and 10, but we remain hopeful of course. Eight weeks for sure this year, and maybe nine or 10 next year.”

Members of churches who may be interested in becoming a host facility either this year or next are asked to contact HART for more information and to see first-hand how the rotating shelter works. Those interested in volunteering for HART or the winter shelter are invited to contact the organization by emailing citrusheightshart@gmail.com. Donations are also accepted at www.citrusheightshart.org.

For more about the winter shelter program in Citrus Heights, see prior story from 2017: “Winter Shelter: churches, volunteers help homeless off Citrus Heights streets”

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