Freezing cold will hit homeless hard

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - Barbara Borsoff and Melvin Green are a homeless couple who, for the most part, live a nocturnal lifestyle.

They spend their nights using the protection of darkness as they "go canning." That is, they sift through myriad garbage dumps for plastic and glass bottles that are later exchanged for cash. Six hours of canning last Thursday, for example, garnered $28 for the couple. The warm summer nights usually brings in up to $80.

Canning will be difficult for Borsoff and Green during the next few days, however. The forecast for Solano County beginning today through Monday calls for a high in the low 50s and a low in the mid-20s, with tonight being the windiest and coldest of the weekend.

For this couple, a small tent hidden within a remote area of town will help to provide shelter from the upcoming freezing night temperatures. At least, that's what Borsoff believes.

They intend to stay within the nylon walls, big enough to accommodate a full-size mattress, exiting only if necessary.

"I'm thankful I have a tent, a bed and clothes," said Borsoff, who is experiencing symptoms of a flu. "The only time I freeze is when I go to pee (outside a makeshift toilet) and there's nothing I can do about that."
Borsoff and Green are a sliver of the homeless population that reside on the streets of Solano County, a number that ranges from 4,000 to 4,500 on any given night, based on a survey by Home Base in 2002 for Mission Solano Rescue Mission.

And for the next few days, these folks will need warmth and shelter.

"You can't expect those who do not have a home to walk the streets. They have to have a place to stop and rest and just get out of the elements," said Ron Marlette, founder and executive director of Mission Solano. "We need some sort of day center, not a place to hide or watch TV, but a place to come and access different types of services."

Mission Solano currently provides services to the homeless at a smaller extent, but they don't have the staff nor the facilities to offer more at a greater scale, Marlette said.

"We're in a place where there is so much traffic and we're right next to an elementary school," he said. "We do have plans to have a day center one day, whether we do it ourselves or with the help of the county."

He also mentioned the vital part of having a day center is the ability to help reinstate the homeless back into the community.

Five years ago, the county closed down the Homeless Day Center on West Texas Street, which provided an array of health and social services to the homeless, as well as bathing, laundering clothes and food. Although many services are provided to the homeless by Solano County, a place for them to find food and shelter, particularly during extreme temperatures, isn't available.

"For times like this, with weather like this, we need to have a day center where people can get coffee, snacks, breakfast, dinner, take showers and use the phone," said Patrick Stasio, Solano County Health Assistant. "They need a place where various services are offered."

According to Supervisor Barbara Kondylis, however, the county is already working on such a plan.

"The Homeless Day Center was a great idea but not well managed. But because it failed doesn't mean it should not be tried again," she said.

In the meantime, several facilities will avail themselves after the state's alert of the upcoming extreme cold weather.

"People can stay at the outreach center and we're ready with staff to help people stay out of the cold," Marlette said. "They can only be at the library or at the mall for so long."

Several facilities, such as Mission Solano, The Salvation Army, Three Oaks Community Center and the Christian Help Center, will offer food and shelter during the next few days and welcome any donations.