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Cold Snap Opens East, North County Shelters

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Emergency shelters for the homeless in North County and East County opened Monday night for the first time this season as the current cold snap drove temperatures below freezing in some areas, San Diego County officials said.

Low temperatures Monday dipped to 30 in El Cajon, 32 in Escondido and 36 in Vista, said Wally Cegiel, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.

Emergency shelters run by the county open when predicted overnight temperatures are 35 degrees, or 40 degrees with rain, said Shirley Hulette, assistant public affairs manager for the San Diego County.

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In North County, the National Guard Armory at 150 Recreation Drive in Vista is used during the winter, along with the East County Regional Center at 250 E. Main St. and the El Cajon Armory at 451 N. Pierce St., both in El Cajon.

Shelters were scheduled to be open from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Tuesday, Hulette said. Each shelter houses about 200.

Emergency shelters in the city of San Diego did not open Monday, as the predicted low for Lindbergh Field--46 degrees--did not reach the necessary minimum. The city’s cold weather contingency plan goes into effect when predicted temperatures are 40 degrees, or 50 degrees with rain, said Fritz Ortlieb, a deputy city attorney whose office advises the city on its emergency shelter policy.

Weather forecasts for the entire county predict lows in the upper 30s for today and Wednesday, Cegiel said. The decision to open shelters is based on morning forecasts made each day.

The county’s cold weather contingency plan was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 1987. Last winter, the North County shelter was open 33 nights, providing shelter for more than 1,400, county officials said. Shelters in East County were open 43 nights and served 785 people.

County officials in charge of the emergency shelters said funding for the cold weather program increased from last year’s $15,000 to $25,000 this year.

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“We were told we could anticipate a long, cold, wet winter,” said Georgia Tate, the deputy director of Community Action Partnership, the county bureau that administers the program. “The funding increase is in preparation for that.”

To find out if emergency housing is available in city or county shelters, call Info Line at 549-0997.

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