WWC Operational Plan



Winter Warming Centers Pilot

Operational & Management Plan




In response to the clear humanitarian need to provide safety and refuge to the unsheltered of our city during winter weather, the Mercy Coalition of West Sacramento and its partners have purposed to pilot a network of 20-bed Winter Warming Centers (WWCs) in 2018-19.   The centers will be made available 5 nights a week at participating church facilities, with intake occurring at designated off-site locations and no walk-up clients permitted.   

In consultation with First Step Communities of Sacramento, the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter of Davis, the Triage Shelter Program in Sacramento, and other similar regional models, the Mercy Coalition will employ the tested best practices of local rotating models to ensure that all of its staff and volunteers are vetted and trained at a high level. 


Dates of operation: Dec. 2, 2018 – March 22, 2019 (5 nites/week)

Planned Locations: Center for Spiritual Awareness, 1275 Starboard Dr.; Community Lutheran Church, 920 Drever St.; Lighthouse Covenant Church, 3605 Gregory Ave.; Southport Church, 2919 Promenade St.; West Sacramento Community Church, 1020 W. Capitol Ave.

WWCs operator: Mercy Coalition of West Sacramento

Beds available: Maximum 20 adults. (Note: hotel vouchers and emergency shelter sequences will be made available for families with children)

WWC hours: 6pm – 7am

Intake: Designated off-site location accessible to homeless population.  (Note: No intake will take place at the WWC churches)

Pets: No.

Staffing: 1-2 trained PT/FT staff on site at all times.  

Supplemented by: Trained community volunteers, beginning with those from the Coalition’s 12 member churches.

Transportation: Independent contractor (Shores of Hope).

Insurance: Carried by the Mercy Coalition as a $1 million certificate for each location utilized.

Key Collaborative Partners: Yolo County Health & Human Services; West Sacramento Police Department; West Sacramento Homeless Coordinator Mark Sawyer; Yolo County Homeless and Poverty Action Coalition (HPAC); Shores of Hope; Our Lady of Grace/St. Vincent DePaul; Lighthouse Covenant Church; Center for Spiritual Awareness; Holy Cross Church; New Seasons Church; West Sacramento Community Church; Revive Church; River’s Edge Church; Project Church; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Cornerstone Church; Southport Church; Yolo County Children’s Alliance; Collings Teen Center; Scott Thurmond Consulting.


The Mercy Coalition of West Sacramento, a 501(c)3 California nonprofit, will operate the Winter Warming Centers under the oversight of its BOARD of DIRECTORS.  The Coalition’s EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR will serve as the agency’s direct point of contact for WWC contractors and volunteer coordinators.  The Executive Director will also take the lead in procuring funding for the Warming Centers, and act as the City’s contact for operational matters concerning the Shelter.

The Mercy Coalition will assume day-to-day responsibility for the safe and efficient operation of the WWCs and will hire, train and schedule personnel to fill the following roles:

PROGRAM MANAGER, overseeing the whole scope of the program.

SUPPORT STAFF, paid staff which will be on-site for the duration of each WWC program night.

Neither the Mercy Coalition nor its contractors will employ persons at the WWCs who are required to register as a sex registrant under Penal Code Section 290. 

VOLUNTEERS for the WWCs will be recruited, scheduled and trained by the Mercy Coalition, in coordination with the Program Manager.  These volunteers may have a variety of roles, including but not limited to cleaning, passing out/collecting equipment, interacting with guests, helping with donated meals, or assisting the paid staff.  Volunteers, whether part of a group or individuals, will be required to go through an application, review and approval process with Coalition coordinators prior to serving at the WWCs. 


All staff and volunteers will be required to receive appropriate levels of training, as determined and facilitated by the Program Manager, before serving at the WWCs.  Utilizing principles and techniques developed by First Step Communities and the Winter Sanctuary of Sacramento, the training will prepare Staff and volunteers to effectively understand issues of homelessness and barriers to service, while offering both practical and emotional support to these vulnerable community members.  

Included in the training will be communication techniques that can assist in providing compassionate and safe interactions with guests.  In addition, training will cover safety and security procedures at the Warming Centers, including Universal Safety Precautions designed to prevent the spread of illnesses to other guests, staff and volunteers.  Staff will be CPR-certified and prepared with the knowledge and skills to assist guests in obtaining permanent shelter and income, including referrals to outside assistance agencies. 

Since some 66% of this population presents multiple and co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses and substance-abuse histories (2017 Point in Time count), all Staff and volunteers will receive training specific to working safely and compassionately with these conditions.   


4:30pm Intake site lineup begins

5:15pm Priority guests must be in line to claim a bed

5:45pm Bus departs intake site

6pm Bus arrives at WWC site

9:30pm Lights out

6am Lights on.  Continental breakfast

7am Bus departs WWC site

7:15am Bus arrives at intake site


Overnight services at the WWCs will be offered to adults over the age of 18.  Families with minor children will be connected that night with appropriate alternate programming or provided with emergency hotel vouchers.  

The WWCs prohibit any alcohol or drugs to be brought onto the premises.  However, the WWCs will welcome any guest who is able to maintain appropriate behavior throughout their stay.  Guests will not be required to take a sobriety test. Guests will also be encouraged to take advantage of available programs and services that would lead them toward self-sufficiency.  However, this will not be a requirement for WWC participation.  

For persons who cannot be served by the WWCs – whether for capacity, behavioral, or non-compliance reasons – it will be the goal of Staff to provide up-to-date information and referral sheets for accessing services elsewhere.


WWC Staff will assign priority placement utilizing the following protocol:

  • Staff will maintain an updated list of individual guests who are receiving case management from the City of West Sacramento’s homeless coordinator, presently Mark Sawyer.  These persons will be identified as priority individuals within the scope of WWC programming.
  • On days that the Winter Warming Centers are open, the 20 available beds will be assigned with the priority individuals given first available placement


Staff and volunteers will check in guests each evening at the designated intake site (not at the church sites themselves).   The WWC will seek to become a referral program for the Coordinated Point of Entry System operated by the Yolo County Homeless and Poverty Action Coalition (HPAC).   In addition, resources from Yolo County Health and Human Services will be deployed during the intake process in order to evaluate the need for additional referral or intervention services.  

Each guest may take one large overnight bag with them to the WWC site for the night.   Items such as carts, bags, and/or pets cannot be stored at the intake site, nor at the church sites.

At the intake site, Staff and/or volunteers will follow the admission procedure below for all potential guests:

1. Ask persons to identify themselves and provide date of birth (check I.D. if available).

2. Determine if the person is barred (see Behavior Plan below)

3. Conduct search of each guest’s bag or backpack for weapons, needles, and drugs. If these are found the guest will be refused service for the evening.

4. Administer WWC questionnaire and client intake forms (see Data Collection).  

5. Present the Rules and Responsibilities for guests (see below)

Guests will be transported to the WWC via insured private vehicle or transportation service.


Upon arrival at the WWC site, each guest will be issued a numbered sleeping bag or blanket/sheet for the evening.   The bedding will be washed and sanitized weekly and, in case of hazardous bodily excretions, discarded.  Staff/volunteers who are washing the sleeping bags must utilize proper personal protective equipment. 


The WWCs will have a limited number of (unadvertised) personal items on hand for guest use, including such items as: 

  • acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • adult diapers
  • feminine hygiene pads
  • spare clean underwear (all genders)
  • band-aids
  • antihistamine
  • decongestant
  • socks

These items are monitored and distributed on an as-needed, case-by-case basis.


Volunteer groups may wish to provide dinner (6:30 p.m.) or breakfast (6:30 a.m.) to WWC guests, and must be scheduled by the WWC Program Manager and designated coordinators. 


In addition to the guest interaction opportunities that accompany the evening meal, approved volunteer groups or individuals may wish to provide additional activities or services in the evening hours, such as haircuts, manicures, board games, live music, etc.  All activities must be cleared and scheduled with the Program Manager.  

All individuals or groups must comply with the Volunteer application and training requirements outlined under Management and Staffing Roles above.


Leveraging our partnerships with various City, County and nonprofit entities, it would be our intent and expectation to provide guests with regular access to services that target and serve their population.  These would include services that address such issues as:

  • Permanent housing
  • Healthcare
  • Mental health
  • Employment
  • Legal services
  • Credit repair
  • Substance recovery

Where the WWCs cannot make services available on-site, they will maintain an up-to-date ‘Street Sheet’ and referral system for these services.


The departure bus will load at 6:45am and depart by 7am.  All guests must return to the intake site and will not be allowed to walk off the church premises.  Loitering around the intake site is not permitted. 


Trauma, PTSD, addiction and mental illness are ever-present issues with the homeless population, with individuals subject to reactive behaviors and sudden triggers.  For the safety and comfort of all guests, each night during the intake process, guests will be made aware of the Rules and Responsibilities for their stay, including:

  1. Respect for Staff, volunteers, other guests, neighbors, and the property itself is expected at all times.  
  2. No alcohol or drugs at the WWC site or in its transportation vehicles.  The Warming Center will expel guests from the facility and return them to the intake site if they are found to be using alcohol or illegal drugs on-site.  
  3. No weapons.
  4. Fighting, threats of violence, and stealing will not be tolerated.  
  5. No pets.
  6. Loitering around the external grounds of the WWC sites is prohibited.
  7. Once at the WWC site for the night, guests will not be allowed to leave the premises except in an emergency. Guests do not have in/out privileges. 
  8. All guests must return to the intake site and will not be allowed to walk off the church premises.


If a guest violates the rules above, Staff will initiate the following Behavioral Plan (a model set forth by the Winter Sanctuary of Sacramento): 

First offense: Guest is counseled and, at discretion of Staff, a warning issued.

Second offense: Guest is removed and not allowed to return for 2 additional nights.

Third offense: Guest is removed and not allowed to return for 7 additional nights.

Fourth offense: Counseling with the Program Director or other paraprofessional must be completed before a return to the Center is permitted.  

Each occurrence will be documented in writing and placed in the Critical Reports binder.


Though showers will not be available at the WWC sites, best efforts will be made to offer each guest the opportunity to clean up and maintain hygiene.  All restrooms will be cleaned and sanitized regularly by Mercy Coalition individuals utilizing appropriate personal protective equipment.  

As the WWC’s guests will often be living outdoors with limited access to restroom and/or shower facilities, this greatly increases the potential for health concerns such as bed bugs, lice, maggots, HIV/AIDS, influenza, hepatitis A-C, and meningitis.  Universal Safety Precautions will be understood and utilized by all Staff and volunteers.


Staff will be CPR-certified and have access to a basic First Aid kit on-site.  However, Staff and volunteers are not licensed medical practitioners and will not be qualified to treat or diagnose illnesses or injuries for guests.  If a guest requires urgent medical attention, Staff will dial 911.  


An intake form will be developed in coordination with the County and City homeless coordinators to ensure necessary data is collected regarding guests and impact of services. These items will include bed utilization, costs, supplemental offerings and identified unmet needs.

The Mercy Coalition is committed to valuing and protecting the confidentiality of guest information.   Prior to program implementation, the WWCs will have policies and procedures in place to protect the confidentiality and privacy of guest information in accordance with the Private Information Protection Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.


The WWCs will not accept guests that have not entered through the intake site.   Each church site will be closed off in accordance with Fire Marshall safety standards once all guests are inside.  Guests will not be allowed in-and-out privileges.  Staff will accompany all guests outside for scheduled cigarette breaks, where church policy allows, in order to ensure that peace and respect is maintained in the neighborhood and to ensure that trash and cigarette butts are not left behind.

Staff will be responsible for noting any persons loitering and will call the police to have them escorted  away from the premises.  Policies and procedures for the upkeep and cleanliness of the property will include daily removal of litter attributable to guests, both on the property and at adjacent properties, and the immediate removal of graffiti anywhere on the premises.


Information regarding the Winter Warming Centers will also be communicated to potential guests through the Mercy Coalition lunchtime feeding program, the City homeless coordinator, and our partners in the social services and law enforcement communities. The Mercy Coalition websites and Facebook page will provide information about services, volunteerism, and needed donations, and our government, nonprofit and corporate partners will be asked to post links on their websites with current information about the Winter Warming Centers. 


The Mercy Coalition of West Sacramento is a collaborative of local churches and faith organizations, dedicated to advocating for the homeless and underprivileged of our city.  The Coalition is most prominently characterized by its daily lunch distribution, which has provided more than 60,000 lunches on weekdays since September 2013.

Our Mission: Compelled by our faith to love with unqualified compassion, the Mercy Coalition seeks to serve the homeless and underserved poor in West Sacramento.  

Our Philosophy: Across our diverse faith traditions, we share this common calling: to belong to one another, to help one another, and to give generously and in sincere love to those who are without. 

As such we are committed not only to directly providing food and services, but to advocacy, education, resourcing and collaboration that will benefit our target populations in the most healthy and holistic ways.  We believe our community is filled with many compassionate people who only need a framework and network to serve in, and we are committed to helping build that framework on behalf of our neediest citizens.

Without judgment, we acknowledge the deep worth of each person and their basic right to food, shelter, safety and dignity. Our goal is to nourish physical needs, as well as each person’s spiritual need for hope, acceptance and respect.  We believe in the power of handshakes and hugs.  We believe “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.”


Definitions of homelessness

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a person is considered homeless only when he/she:

  • resides in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings or on the street.
  • resides in an emergency shelter.
  • resides in transitional or supportive housing for homeless persons if he or she originally came from the streets or emergency shelters.
  • is being evicted within a week from a private dwelling unit and no subsequent residence has been identified, and the individual lacks resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.
  • is being discharged within a week from an institution, such as a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility or a jail/prison, in which the person has been residing for more than 30 consecutive days, and no subsequent residence has been identified, and the person lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.
  • is fleeing a domestic violence housing situation and no subsequent residence has been identified and the individual lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.