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The first step 

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Well, kids. It's raining.

We might get as much as 3 inches of rain before the weekend is through! Hip hip hoorah! Maybe, now, we won't catch on fire before February.

It's a celebration! At least, for those Central Coast dwellers who reside under a roof. For those of you who don't, I've got news for you: People want you to have access to a warm, dry place during the winter months as long as they don't have to see it, hear it, or think about it.

Yep. It's a Central Coast tradition. Every year around the holidays, SLO County's governments start to declare homeless shelter crises. But only when the weather changes. When the dampness of winter sets in, and the holiday season of giving melts people's cold, cold hearts. When government officials realize that they don't have any plans in place for a warming shelter in their towns—even though the same thing happened last year (and the year before that and the year before that) and nobody did anything about it.

Nobody except for the faith-based organizations and volunteers who try to cobble together coalitions to serve the less fortunate, and when they try to ask for fiscal support from local governments, it's a solid no. Morro Bay City Council declared a shelter crisis in 2016, opting to "support" the nonprofit willing to take on the task of providing a warming shelter during the winter months. But that support consists of mostly cheering—and there's yet to be a warming shelter on the coast.

At least in Atascadero, homeless folks will have access to St. Williams Church whenever it rains or dips below 40 degrees until Jan. 21, 2019. After that, Atascadero City Council members unanimously decided, if you're homeless, you're SOL. At its Nov. 27 meeting, City Council members opted to not give the Atascadero Warming Center access to the Atascadero National Guard Armory—even though former Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian made sure that this exact armory was added to the state's list of armories that could be used as warming shelters for homeless individuals without having to deal with any red tape.

Apparently, the mere suggestion that homeless people might have shelter from the wind, rain, and biting cold in a state-owned building, downtown, near our volunteer troops was enough to stir up community opposition!

"Why would you subject the members of the National Guard, who voluntarily spend their time in service to their country, to the filth, unsanitary and unsafe conditions the homeless typically leave behind every place they gather any more than you'd invite them into your own homes?" resident Mark Casner asked the city in a letter.

Yes, how dare you, Atascadero, even think about giving a helping hand to those houseless members of our communities living in poverty. If you just write these members of society off, as Mark the Grinch has, I'm sure they'll just disappear off the face of the planet.

"It is inconceivable that anyone would consider exposing children to a multitude of unknown adults without any restrictions or consideration to the adults' drug additions, criminal history, or anger management issues," a letter from resident Madalyn McDaniel stated.

Dearest Madalyn, are you only referring to the children who are lucky enough to attend the Fine Arts Academy near the armory? Because your broad characterization of the homeless population has left out the 50 percent of homeless women and children who are fleeing domestic or sexual violence situations and have nowhere to go. I'm sure that those who aren't lucky enough to nab one of ECHO Homeless Shelter's 50 beds could take shelter under the shade of a winter-stripped walnut tree in the Salinas Riverbed.

And Madalyn, you've misjudged the qualities of the known adults in this world. Remember that Fine Arts Academy teacher accused of taking illicit videos up the skirts of female students?

Real high quality.

Meanwhile, in Grover Beach, some lady named Marsha has been bitching about the South County People's Kitchen on repeat since 2002. Did you know that volunteers prepare meals for homeless people exactly 366 feet away from an elementary school? The horror!!!

How can elementary school children be expected to see their fellow city residents volunteer to provide meals to the less fortunate?

"This is a big concern," she told Grover Beach City Council members on Nov. 19, referring to the 70 to 145 people per day who get a hot noontime meal from the People's Kitchen as "a congregation of possible child offenders, sexual predators."

Let's do some math. There are an estimated 114,000 homeless individuals in California; approximately 6,300 of those are registered sexual predators. That's roughly 5 percent of the homeless population. Not exactly a congregation.

"The large majority of people who come and eat with us are not involved in substance abuse. These are the displaced families, the senior citizens trying to exist on their retirement income, the disabled, mentally challenged, and the working poor," the People's Kitchen said in a past report to the council about who they serve.

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that the issue exists. The symbolic use of "shelter crisis" isn't cutting it. The Central Coast just needs to admit it has a problem with poor people.

Maybe, then, we can provide actual shelter to the people who need it. Δ

The Shredder is having a crisis of conscience. Send comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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