Homeless encampment receives sleeping bags from community donations

Tulare community members raise $5,500 to help the city purchase 120 cold weather sleeping bags for individuals in the homeless encampment

TULARE – In the midst of an unusually cold winter, the city received requests for sleeping bags from individuals who had just moved into the temporary homeless encampment, and the community responded.

Since individuals moved into Tulare’s temporary homeless encampment on Jan. 25, night time temperatures have averaged at 33 degree minimums. Though they have fire pits throughout the encampment it was not enough during frigid nights. As a result individuals reached out to the city of Tulare to ask for some extra warmth. As word spread, community members like Darlene Mata, began to raise money for the purchase of cold weather sleeping bags. When Mata heard about the issue she  was touched and knew she had to act, so she turned to facebook. Before Mata knew it she had raised $1,260.

“I know none of us like to see it, but I know I have had friends that have ended up homeless for no reason of their own,” Mata said. “And I think we should all have some compassion for the folks that are experiencing homelessness. I just wish there was more of that in the world.”

Mata was particularly touched by the stories of some of the women in the encampment. According to deputy city manager Josh McDonnell, there are 46 women and 42 men residing in the temporary settlement. When Mata took to social media to raise money, her focus was on women in particular. In turn she received donations from 15 individuals, who were women from a variety of locations including some from out of state. 

“I just got a little teary eyed [at the meeting] and just was like, you know what, I would hate to be homeless in this cold,” Mata said. “I just reached out to my friends and said that the stories had touched me and asked if anybody would help me buy sleeping bags for people that are experiencing homelessness.”

In addition to Mata and other members of the community, each city council member donated a portion of their community funding to fill the needed gap. Each year, city council members have $2,500 in community funding. At the Feb. 6 city council meeting, all members approved giving up to $1,100 of their funding to this cause. All together, the community raised $5,500 according to McDonell allowing for a total of 120 sleeping bags to be purchased. From now on, each individual who moves into the encampment will receive a sleeping bag along with their tent and other items at registration.

“This is just another wonderful example of how Tulare’s community members are stepping up, recognizing a need and meeting the need on their own,” McDonell said. “It is really great and heartwarming.”

To date, 88 individuals have moved into the encampment, with more slowly moving in throughout the next weeks. The goal of filling all 139 available spaces still remains. According to housing and grant specialist Alexis Costales, the city is in the process of figuring out the best donation process. For now,  those who want to donate can call 559-685-4509.

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