Cal Expo Homeless Winter Shelter Opens

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 24, 2008

At the Volunteers of America central kitchen in North Sacramento, workers like Al Hill are busy preparing meals. 

“I’m whipping some pudding for tonight’s desert. Trying to get it nice and smooth. No lumps.”

Hill’s whipping the pudding with a huge, industrial-sized hand-mixer.

A few feet away, Cindy Viramontes is ripping off leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce. 

“I’m preparing lettuce and tomato for tomorrow’s lunches. We’ll have sliced lunch meat and bread and lettuce and tomato.” 

This kitchen is busy year round preparing meals for about 1,500 local people who get help from various Volunteers of America programs including alcohol abuse treatment, mental health and senior services. But things get even busier this time of year when the winter shelter opens. 

“It about doubles our workload. But we are prepared and ready to go.” 

Eric Nichols is the food service director. He expects the winter shelter to fill up quickly.    

“Not only have we seen our demand pick up for beds, we have people that have gone through the program in the past that aren’t having a severe alcohol problem right now that try and get into the center because they have no place else to go. So it’s good that the winter shelter is opening.” 

Volunteers of America spokesman Barry Wisdom says over the summer, they repainted the shelter. 

“We had a fresh coat of paint for all the dorms. We’re getting new bedding. We’ve freshened up for the season.” 

The shelter is located inside a former arcade at Cal Expo. It can house as many as 154 men, women and children each night. Wisdom says they’re not expecting to get any more people than that…but they are prepared in case they do. 

“Last year, we had almost 99% of capacity. We do have some overflow beds and we do have partner agencies.” 

Guests can stay 14 consecutive days and in some cases longer depending on the availability of beds. The winter shelter is funded by Sacramento County’s Department of Human Assistance. It’s scheduled to stay open through late March.