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Homeless Lodians seek shelter from the cold

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Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 12:00 am

While playing dominoes on Monday afternoon at Lawrence Park, Linden resident Richard Strohl said he knows what it is like to sleep outside on cold winter nights.

He now has a three-bedroom, two-bathroom double-wide trailer, but he used to be homeless. He stayed warm in the winter through resourceful Dumpster diving — finding a sleeping bag that provided warmth in 15-degree weather and large, clear plastic bags to shield keep any moisture out.

"I found ways to stay warm," he said. "When you are out here, everyone helps each other out."

As temperatures have dipped below 20 degrees at night, the number of people staying at the Salvation Army Hope Harbor shelter has doubled compared to a warm week in the summer, shelter director Karen West said.

At the shelter, homeless residents can get a warm meal and a place to stay in these cold conditions.

The shelter has overflow areas — the dining hall in the men's section and hideaway beds in the women's section — but so far they have not had to use them, West said.

For those who are still on the street, West recommends they look into services that will help them find housing. She suggests people look into attending local support group meetings through recovery programs, churches or nonprofit organizations.

"People need emotional support to take the right steps to find housing," she said. "If you are homeless, get some ideas, get some advice. Don't just think, 'I want to get out of this situation.'"

West said she and her husband have both experienced times when they did not have a home, including when her husband lived on the streets in Sacramento.

"In the summertime, it's easy to stay outside," West said. "We drive by the park now, and we think of the people we know in Lodi and think, 'How could we be that cold again?' It hurts our hearts."

For the homeless, the key when it is cold outside is to get into a shelter, whether it's in Lodi or Stockton, said Bill Mendleson, director of the Central Valley Low Income Housing Corp.

"While people might not want to be in the shelter for any number of reasons, it's definitely a better option than trying to stay in a tent or wrapping yourself up in a blanket," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com.

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