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Cold weather homeless shelter prepares to open
Bill Sturtevant of the We Care Program gives a tour of the cold weather shelter on Broadway to community volunteers. - photo by MAEGAN MARTENS / The Journal
With more and more people losing their homes and jobs across the nation, the increase in the homeless population has become a type of epidemic. More people are living on the streets, in cardboard boxes and in alley ways just to keep warm during the coming cold months of winter.
In preparation for winter storms coming through the Central Valley, the We Care Program held an informational meeting Wednesday in hopes of gathering more volunteers to help with the opening of their men’s shelter on Nov. 8.
“You have as good of a chance of getting a job as you are winning the lotto,” said Bill Sturtevant, executive director of the We Care Program. “There are lots of people new to being homeless.”  
This is the eighth year the We Care Program has made a shelter available for the homeless. The shelter has 34 available spots for men seeking a roof over their heads and a bed this winter season. The shelter also serves dinner once a night with the help of volunteers.    
The shelter is an old hotel so there is the luxury of having separate rooms and community bathrooms with showers, Sturtevant said. There are also two multi-purpose rooms with a TV, computers, games and books.    
“I would behave myself if I was lucky enough to get a private room and a shower,” Sturtevant said.  
Shelter doors open at 6:15 p.m. so the homeless don’t have to wait gathered in front of the doors every night, but the shelter technically opens at 6:30 p.m., he said. Those being sheltered are served dinner by volunteers at 7 p.m. then lights out around 9:30 p.m. Shelter participants have to leave at 8 a.m. the next morning.  
Dinners are prepared by volunteers every night, Sturtevant said. The volunteers are in charge of purchasing the food for dinner that they make at home or they can make the food at the shelter with their kitchen.
The meeting Wednesday was for volunteers coming to learn more about preparing and serving dinner and also to recruit more volunteers, said Maris Sturtevant, treasurer for the We Care Program.  
It is a beginning of the season meeting for the volunteers to learn how the kitchen works, get a tour of the shelter and see how things work, Maris Sturtevant said.  
So far, the shelter is still looking for volunteers because there are not as many signed up as last year, she said.  
“There are the least amount of people signed up this year so close to opening day,” Maris Sturtevant said. “We have never had this problem before. Usually, people are fighting over days to volunteer.”  
We Care staff plan to go out into the community and recruit more volunteers, she said.  
To stay at the homeless shelter, there is no identification required, but persons seeking shelter must be male and they can’t be a sex offender, Bill Sturtevant said. Everyone must sign in when coming into the shelter and the list is sent to the police every night to check for sex offenders.  
“We want this to be a safe place for homeless people to come to,” he said.  
The shelter is open for about four months until April 1, 2010, Bill Sturtevant said. They hope to not see the same people in the shelter for the entire four months, but the odds are against them.  
“About 20 out of the 34 people will be here for the entire four months,” he said.  
For more information about the We Care Program or to volunteer to serve dinner this season, call 664-2003.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.