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Walnut Creek To Use National Guard Armory To House Homeless

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) -- The Bay Area homeless crisis is spreading from big cities to the suburbs, with the problem is becoming more urgent in Walnut Creek.

City officials are teaming up with the state to use the National Guard armory as an overnight shelter, complete with 24-hour National Guard security.

Starting on November 12, homeless people in Walnut Creek will have the opportunity to stay overnight at the armory.

Walking the streets of downtown Walnut Creek, you'll see shopping bags, strollers and some very expensive storefronts.

Some residents were surprised when KPIX 5 informed them the armory here would soon become a homeless shelter.

"Very surprised," said Walnut Creek resident Stella Murgia.

"I couldn't believe they would do this in Walnut Creek," said local Cyndi Cappucini.

But make no mistake; homelessness is an issue in the toney East Bay suburb. On Tuesday, there was a family camped just outside where the shelter will be.

"They've been trying to get rid of me basically ever since I got here," said homeless man John Hutchens.

Rather than the police getting him to leave, it's actually the shelter that makes him want to go. He has no interest in the Trinity Center shelter because it's run by St. Paul's Church, which means he has to follow some strict rules.

"The program requires that they be members of the Trinity Center at least 30 days prior to being in the shelter, so they are background checked to make sure they're safe individuals," said Sandra Meyer with the Trinity Center.

Meyer said this program isn't for people like John. It's for homeless individuals who are very serious about finding long term housing now

"That is the commitment; to house as many people as possible," explained Meyer.

Still, reviews among the Walnut Creek community are mixed.

"I think it's a really good thing," said Murgia.

"I do want to make sure the community stays safe," said Walnut Creek resident Taylor Graves. "It's very scary. You've got a lot of kids around."

The city is chipping in $100,000 to make this emergency shelter possible. The rest of the money has been donated.

National Guardsmen will be paid to secure the perimeter around the armory.

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