“It’s going to get quite windy,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Mathews.
One option not in play for shelter are city-run warming centers after positive COVID-9 tests among volunteers forced their closure last week.
The parking garage can serve both people on foot or in cars, said Mary Lynne Vellinga, a spokeswoman for Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
“It provides a significant amount of protection from the elements but also has good air circulation to prevent the spread of covid,” Vellinga said.
In addition to the parking garage option, Councilwoman Katie Valenuzela said the city is also offering hotel room vouchers and working to quickly reopen warming centers.
Prior to the COVID-19 exposure, the downtown library site was hosting 65 guests a night, while the Southside Park site housed another 15 people.
The city also has 365 hotel vouchers to distribute to individuals and families. It’s unclear how many of those are used nightly.
Valenuzela said opening the warming centers was the right call.
“We think it's about balancing public health risks,” Valenuzela said. “... it’s easy to say they COVID is the biggest risk but I would argue that sometimes being outdoors in under 40 degree weather, when you’re wet, when it's raining, when it's cold is just as big of a public health risk.”
Valenzuela spent several nights helping run the shelter as city staff were working to bring on outside advocates to take over operation.
The closure of the two warming centers came after some back-and-forth over opening them.
In November, as advocates pleaded for the city and county to open warming centers, Greg Tarola — a man who says he was newly experiencing homelessness — died while living on the streets north of downtown.
City Council voted unanimously in late January to declare a local homelessness emergency, which led to the opening of the two downtown warming centers.
But those centers were not open during an intense winter storm days later. At least six homeless residents died during the storm, leading the City Council to declare a local weather emergency in order to reopen the warming centers.
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