Two Orange County shelters will open Wednesday for four months, providing relief from chilly nights for about 300 of Orange County's roughly 35,000 homeless people.
"We're just trying to provide somewhere for people to come in and sleep with some comfort," said Scott Mather, coordinator of the county's cold-weather shelter program. "If I had my way, we'd have [the shelters] open year-round."
The National Guard armories in Santa Ana and Fullerton, which sometimes house soldiers, will open each night at 6, providing not just a place to bunk down for the night, but also hot showers and warm meals. Volunteers come each night to provide outreach services such as legal aid, food stamps, AIDS testing and job counseling. Blankets and thick sleeping pads are provided at bedtime, and people must leave by 6 a.m.
"It's not a luxurious shelter, but it's better than being outside," Mather said.
Each facility housed an average of 170 people per night last year during the four months they were open, although each is intended to house 150. Although many of the same people come back night after night, Mather said, about 1,365 people -- mostly men -- were served overall last year by the shelters. They cost about $6,000 per night to run, a tab that is picked up mostly by the county.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which runs the shelters, is seeking donations of food, clothing, toiletries and books. Contributions can be dropped off during business hours at the society's office at 180 S. Cypress St. in Orange or in the evenings at either armory.
The armories are at 612 E. Warner Ave. in Santa Ana and 400 S. Brookhurst St. in Fullerton.