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It Takes the Lot to Cry

[whitespace] Home for up to 250 people a day, 115 Coral Street can be a place to end up--or a place to start over

By Kelly Luker

A PLACE TO LAY your head is merely one of the interconnecting pieces of the emergency shelter picture. Food, showers and clothing are just as important, and all can be had at The Lot, as the Homeless Resources Community Center at 115 Coral St. is known. Once an industrial building, the center has overhead bays and a parking lot where between 15 and 50 percent of the homeless population--depending on who's selling the statistics--can be found during the day.

"It's not the Cadillac version" of homeless services, opines Gillette, "which leads to the debate on whether it should be."

Dave is one of those folks who took his foot off the gas when he hit the HCRC some years ago. It's been 11 years now that Cedar Street, then Coral Street, has been his home. Dave agrees that the program is no Cadillac, but he and others wonder if county officials even give it the respect of a Yugo.

He can be found most days sitting on a bench near the catering truck, and he's happy to talk about the rats "this big" that can be found scurrying around the ancient catering truck that is used to cook up dinner for more than 200 adults and children a day. The coach was filthy until someone made a report to the health inspectors in January, which made the center close it down and steam clean it.

When first contacted, county environmental health department inspector Andrew Strader says that homeless facilities are inspected twice a year. He calls back to amend that--it's actually once a year. He admits that restaurants like Denny's are inspected four times a year. Why the difference?

Environmental health services program manager Ray Toshitsune explains that the "frequencing target" for inspections of various establishments was set years ago, based on the potential for problems. According to Toshitsune, restaurants like Denny's pose a greater risk because of a higher turnover in cooks and the type of foods cooked.

"Shelters are more into soups than sauces," he explains.

Bizarre though that explanation may sound, Toshitsune insists that Santa Cruz County is considered proactive, pointing out that other jurisdictions may not inspect homeless shelters at all unless a complaint is filed.

Fortunately, the Service Center was just awarded $213,000 by the city of Santa Cruz to build a permanent kitchen and dining room, as well as bigger offices.

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From the April 14-21, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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