Local News

Dec 9, 2009 2:12 AM by Monica Quintero

Chilly temps have homeless looking for a place to stay

The chilly temperatures make it extremely difficult on the homeless. The Economic Opportunity Commission says on a given night, there will be 2,500 to 4,000 people looking for a place to sleep in San Luis Obispo County. The last statistics in 2006, show there were more than 6,000 homeless in Santa Barbara County. That's according to a health care consultant. But there are places that offer help.

Debora Pancoast had never been homeless until two months ago. She just arrived at the Good Samaritan shelter in Santa Maria two weeks ago. Pancoast said, "I feel very fortunate, I feel blessed. It is because of the economy. I was laid off my job." Stacy Goldsmith, Good Samaritan Services Case Manager, said, "The jobs are very scarce. Our clients are having a tough time finding employment." Since the streets are colder now, Goldsmith said they've seen an increase in women and children. In fact, at this time the shelter has more than 20 children staying there. Pancoast said, "I never realized how many children there were that were homeless."

As for Debora, she knows firsthand what its like to stay in the chilly temperatures. Pancoast said, "You feel hopeless, you feel numb. I pray for the people that are out there and don't come in here." She has faith in the future and hopes one day she can be the one giving back. "I look for work and keep an optimistic attitude," said Pancoast. The good news is that at the Good Samaritan shelter, they're confident they have enough beds to help anyone in need. On this night, more than 70 people of all ages are staying. Goldsmith said, "Potentially we could have 91 here and we can have 40 to 44 next door which is our overflow shelter." The biggest complaint from clients is that it's only a night shelter, so come daylight they're having to find other places to keep warm.

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