Freedom Warming Centers
The Freedom Warming Centers (FWC), a grassroots partnership between nonprofits and faith communities, provide temporary “pop-up” shelter for the County’s people living without homes during dangerously cold or damp weather conditions.
In 2009, a Santa Barbara resident, known by the name of “Freedom,” died on our streets after being exposed to cold and wet winter weather. Stories like his were far too frequently in the news at that time, and our County’s annual “Homeless Death Report” marked winter after winter of preventable deaths from exposure to the elements.
A group of homeless advocates, faith community, and others began working on solutions that would reduce or eliminate the chances of anyone dying from winter conditions in Santa Barbara County. From those meetings, the Freedom Warming Centers was born.
To make this effort sustainable, the Warming Centers needed a fiscal agent, to enable the program’s ability to raise funds, provide staff oversight, and manage the administrative tasks of this critical new program.
The Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara answered that call with the intent to administer the FWC for a few seasons until the program was self-sufficient, or until a service agency could take on the administrative duties.
Those “few years” quickly became twelve seasons! With the successful growth of the program, the Warming Centers now require an organization with larger administrative capacity to support this vital service: an organization whose core mission is to serve our houseless neighbors.
We are pleased to announce that Good Samaritan Shelter will be the new fiscal agent for the Warming Centers beginning July 1, 2021.
Good Samaritan Shelter’s capabilities, expertise in homeless services, and operational integrity will keep the program thriving for years to come. The two organizations (Good Samaritan Shelter and Unitarian Society) have been in partnership for years, enabling a smooth transition.
Good Samaritan Shelter shares in a commitment to keeping the Warming Centers accessible, safe, and welcoming to all who need shelter on cold and rainy winter nights. The Unitarian Society will continue to be closely involved in this work in a volunteer capacity.
Faith communities like the Unitarian Society will remain vital partners as host sites for the Freedom Warming Centers, which will continue its’ regular, seasonal operations under the administration of Good Samaritan Shelter.
There is a lot to be proud of in the transition of this work. The Warming Centers have sheltered our county’s neighbors without homes for over twelve years, and will continue to do so with the community’s support, for as long as there are people who need it. We look forward to this new season for the Freedom Warming Centers.
More about the Freedom Warming Centers
The FWCs are a low-barrier service providing shelter to all in need of sanctuary on cold nights. The program serves individuals across 12 sites in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Carpinteria, Isla Vista, and Lompoc. Guests can arrive at any hour of the evening, between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., and pets are welcome. The Freedom Warming Centers can be a gateway for homeless individuals seeking recovery and/or housing services and other resources. Individuals who access Warming Center service have fewer emergency room visits and less likely to be housed in jails. When activated countywide, the Freedom Warming Centers serve approximately 200 individuals a night.
The Warming Center’s work is made possible with help from our community partners, including; Trinity Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church, Carpinteria Community Church, First Congregational Church, City of Carpinteria, Peace Lutheran Church, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria Salvation Army, the City of Santa Maria, the County of Santa Barbara, and many more.