Our View: Heat up the help for homeless when temperatures drop

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This week we’ve been chilled to the bone. When the sun goes down the mercury has fallen off the table. But while we’re ensconced in the warmth of our homes during these cold snaps, do our minds wander to those that aren’t so lucky?
They should.
The last few weeks the Journal has made readers well aware of the unusually deep cold that has descended on California and the foothills, and how it’s been affecting everything from pipes to crops. But it’s also been affecting a growing population here in the foothills – the homeless.
While many organizations do great work to offer a warm bed at night and a hot meal, especially during this latest cold spell, there’s still more that can be done, and it needs to be done – especially when these sub-freezing temperatures settle in.  
Regardless of your feelings or opinions of those who don’t have a permanent home, one defining characteristic should override them – these are human beings. The argument can be made that plants and pets are better taken care of when it comes to the cold than people without homes – they’re brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.
Along with the Gathering Inn program are there other churches or community centers that can be involved, that can open up their doors during these extremely chilly times? Can they work more with law enforcement to come up with multiple options for emergency shelters?
Programs, such as the Gathering Inn, have certain requirements when it comes to who is allowed in, and understandably so. The program does drop some of its requirements under extreme conditions, but what do we do about those that still don’t qualify? Can these people be helped as well, maybe with the arm of law enforcement, opening a center in emergency conditions for those that aren’t allowed at other shelters?
More outreach is another tool that could reduce those in the cold. While there are volunteers that go out to homeless camps throughout the area offering help to those who need and want it, is there an emergency task force that goes out during these extremely frigid days to let people know there are places for them to stay, at least just for that night?
Homeless man John Gregory told the Journal recently that he had not heard of the Gathering Inn, or where the pickup point was. He said he could have used it to stay out of the cold the other night.  
But staying warm is also a responsibility of those who want to get out of the cold. Many times the Journal has heard that there are plenty of services available, but that people don’t take advantage. The bottom line here is, ask. Seek out help, there might be more options available than you thought.
And let’s not forget ourselves. What have we done to help in times like these? Have a warm coat that isn’t getting any use these days? Donate it. If you have the ability to chip in money or time to the Salvation Army, the Gathering Inn, or any other program that helps – do it.
Auburn is a community that has consistently helped out those in need, and it’s something its citizens should be proud of. And with the freezing temperatures emergency programs are in place, such as the $500 a day freed from state block-grant funding to provide shelter for those who don’t qualify for the Gathering Inn.
But more can be done for the less fortunate when emergency conditions such as these occur, because an old sleeping bag under a bridge isn’t the best defense from sub-freezing temperatures.