By Daniel Correia
The Homeless Service Center on Coral St. has a wooden sign hanging that says, "Though you may not have wealth, you are rich in soul because you have a heart of gold."
Some people are waiting in line for food and others are sitting on white plastic chairs waiting for the shuttle bus. Many sounds fill the air- accents from all over the country, jovial laughing, friendly greetings, children squealing as they play tag amidst the adults.
The shelter will be affected when the facility closes for renovations late November and with the closing of the Interfaith Satellite Shelter Service, a 20-year-old program that picks up about 30 people from the Homeless Services Center and shuttles them to local churches in Santa Cruz. With the escalating cost of transportation, the Interfaith program cannot afford to stay active. However, the good news is that the beds lost will be replaced by two new dorms at the soon-to-be renovated Coral St. facility.
Executive Director of the Homeless Services Center, Ken Cole, said, "The renovations will about double the capacity. I’m optimistic that were going to come out ahead."
On the Oct. 5, the proposal for the new facility was approved. The construction should be finished around late February to early March. The dorms, which will have about 44 new beds, will be relatively inexpensive at $30,000 because most of the work will be done by Habitat for Humanity.
Carol Berg, Housing and Community Development Manager for Santa Cruz, said that the city helps with funding by using money from community building federal government grants, however, most of the money is acquired through the Homeless Services Center.
Funding for the new Coral St. center’s renovations is made up of about 60 percent private funding and 40 percent government funding, which amounts to about $600,000.
Funding for the Interfaith service has previously been about 80 percent private funding and 20 percent government funding, which amounts to $160,000 a year.
While the Coral St. center is closed for renovations, the Interfaith Satellite Shelter Program will stay open, as well as the food services and some temporary mobile hygiene services at the Coral St. center.
"We’re committed to keeping it open until the renovations are finished," Cole said.
Currently, the Coral Street Homeless Services day shelter is the hub where about 300 people a day take showers, use the bathrooms, wash clothes, eat at the food services, and sleep at night in the mezzanine. The sleeping accommodations there are minimal, though, where all that is provided is the floor of the balcony above the showers.
Allen, a 28-year-old homeless man from Oklahoma who has been in Santa Cruz for three months, was standing outside with his wife and two-year-old baby girl.
"I’m debating whether I’m going to sleep here or not," said Allen, "I would rather camp, but I have a baby and it’s too cold for her. They don’t provide enough shelter for families."
As of 2005, the Homeless Census Survey said there were over 3,200 homeless people in Santa Cruz, of which 2,700 either live in their cars or outdoors.
"Sometimes, I feel more like I have a home when I camp," Allen said.
Although the Interfaith Program is closing, Cole said that they will probably keep a family group going at the local Holy Cross church. That, along with the increased capacity at the Coral St. center, should help alleviate an enduring problem in Santa Cruz.