With the cool breath of winter already in the air and a population of people who – for a variety of reasons – choose to live on its streets, Walnut Creek is hoping to open its National Guard Armory as temporary shelter starting in December.
The announcement that the National Guard would open the armory came as a surprise to several people on the streets of Walnut Creek Tuesday, several of whom said they were living on the streets by choice.
“I don’t like shelters,” said David Stallworth, who admitted he has been living day to day in Walnut Creek for the past two months. “Too many rules and people steal from you. I like it out here…”
“Out here” is often a doorway or, when weather is inclement, under a bridge, Stallworth said. Centers in place to help get “highly mobile” people like him off the streets come with too many restrictions.
Unless something changes, he says, he’ll be avoiding the city’s current plan to drive homeless people from Trinity Center – a nonprofit aimed at securing housing for homeless people – to the armory on Carmel Drive, already situated in an area home to many of the highly mobile, Civic Park. Talk of opening the armory started last year, after the deaths of two homeless men who died of exposure.
Trinity Center is paying the rent on the armory while it remains open, and will bus more than two dozen of its patrons to and from the building in the evening. Once there, they are not allowed to leave. Center representatives say they are hoping to speak with neighbors on Carmel Drive who have expressed initial concerns about having a shelter in their neighborhood – with traditional fears of public safety and reduction in property values at the forefront of their worries.
A community meeting has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Walnut Creek Community Center conference room with Trinity Center representatives present to address community concerns.