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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The cold snap is back, and now the city of Sacramento is opening a warming shelter to keep the homeless out of the elements.

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Homelessness in Sacramento has become a top priority for Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

The warming center at South Side Park is opening, as the valley hits near-freezing temperatures overnight.

“When I know the weather is going to be cold like this, I take my food stamps and I take a couple days’ worth of food so I don’t have to come out and stay warm,” said Richard Dean.

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Dean has been homeless for six years and says he’s ready to make the transition off the streets and into a home.

The cold weather has been torture for Dean, who now stays cooped up in his tent, trying to brave the elements.

“We just make do with what we have,” Dean said.

“You gotta wear a lot of clothes and try to have as many blankets as you can, and try to find a place where the wind ain’t blowing,” said Robert Perea.

Perea has been homeless for only a month.

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He came to Sacramento from Tucson, Arizona, and says the winter weather hasn’t been pleasant.

“If you talk to any homeless person they will say ‘hey, if you give me a place tonight it will gladly take it’ but finding those permanent spots is very difficult,’ said Sister Libby Fernandez, Executive Director of Loaves and Fishes.

Sister Libby says the group sees an average of 600 people a day who are seeking food and temporary shelter.

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“We can’t operate 24/7, but during the day if you’re homeless you can come use the restrooms; you can come and rest and access services, get survival services – but at night where do you go? That’s what we are lacking,” Sister Libby added.

She says she has already started that conversation with Mayor Steinberg.

“There’s going to be a laser focus on increasing housing stock for the chronically homeless and intensifying our community outreach,” said Jaycob Bytel, the mayor’s communications director.

Mayor Steinberg’s representatives wouldn’t elaborate on the mayor’s plans but say there are proposals which will be made public in January.

Having a support system to help Robert Perea get off the streets and into permanent housing is something he can’t wait to have again.

“Until you experience it you don’t know what it’s like. You can talk about it, you can see it, but until you go through it…” Perea added.

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Sacramento County and City officials will meet at the end of January to discuss their plans to help the homeless.
It will be the first time both parties come together to tackle the issue.