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Warm-hearted volunteers open heating center

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Warm-hearted volunteers open heating center

Manteca CERTS volunteers and Manteca Fire personnel help set up sleeping cots inside the Senior Center during the first night of the warming center on Wednesday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 6, 2013 12:01 a.m.

There’s a formula.

One or two cold nights are fine. A few degrees above a given threshold are fine. But when the temperature drops below a certain point – definitely below freezing – for three straight days, local government agencies and municipalities have to respond.

And respond they did.

Within an hour of getting the call from Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters, the Manteca CERT team – Community Emergency Response Team – already had a team of volunteers in place at the Manteca Senior Center ready to keep the doors open for those who might need to get out of the cold and avoid exposure to the plummeting overnight temperatures.

They have practice with this. They got a similar call back at the end of June when the temperature spiked well above the century mark for a string of days – again, that formula – and Waters felt the need to institute a plan that not only provided an outlet for the homeless in the community that might not have a place to go during the day, but also provided wellness checks on seniors and those living in mobile home parks without air conditioning.

But tackling something like a warming center is a coordinated effort.

First it was Waters that got on the horn and started making phone calls. He called San Joaquin Office of Emergency Services liaison Sharon Herrera. He called CERT Team Leader Jesse Ramirez. He called various City of Manteca department heads. He called police chief Nick Obligacion. He called his own battalion chiefs.

Together they mapped out a plan that would allow for the senior center to remain open through the night with supervision, and with support from outside agencies like the Red Cross, upwards of 10 cots and a stack of blankets were donated to help make the temporary shelter as comfortable as possible.

But it’s volunteers, Waters said, that make the entire thing possible.

“Really it just takes a phone call from me and they’re ready to mobilize and they take care of business and get it staffed the same way we did when we had those really hot days,” he said. “They’re awesome and they’re self-sufficient and without them we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things that we’re able to do. We just don’t have the staff to be able to keep something like that open all night, and it’s a big benefit to the people who don’t have anywhere else to go.”

When Senior Center director Brandi Clark came in to work at 7:30 Thursday morning, there were still three people at the facility. She said that the city was going to have to get creative with their Thursday night plan with a packed house expected to show up for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and program.

“We’re going to have people that come for the warming center stay in the library while the program is going on and then turn it around after it’s over,” she said. “We’re going to have to get creative and make the switch, but I’m pretty sure that we’re going to be able to make it work without any problems.”

Few people showed up at the warming center at Wednesday night, but that doesn’t mean that they were sleeping out on the street.

According to Manteca Police Department Sergeant Jodie Estarziau, officers that were out patrolling the night shift informed as many of the homeless as possible of the temporary overnight facility.

“We have people in the community that are homeless but have friends that are willing to let them stay when it gets really cold,” she said. “Others that live in their car have some barrier from the elements, and some just like to bundle up when it’s really, really cold.

“We have a number of long-term motels along Moffat Blvd. that tend to fill up, but we’re letting people know that they have that option.”

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