The Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary (EG WINS), an evening program dedicated to providing temporary, emergency shelter for Elk Grove’s homeless during the coldest time of the year, will open on Dec. 8.

EG WINS, which is annually assisted by local churches, is a 12-week program of the Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team.

Fred Bremerman, co-coordinator of EG WINS, said that the program, which began seven years ago, continues to be important for the community.

“The value is high,” he said. “It’s high enough that we know we will have customers this year, because we continue to experience difficulties that create homelessness.”

Those who want to participate in the program should meet at the Elk Grove United Methodist Church at 8986 Elk Grove Boulevard Blvd. The doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Assisting with this year’s edition of EG WINS will be more than 130 volunteers, who work with the program’s check-in at the church and carry out other duties. Each volunteer has committed to one to three hours every week for 12 weeks.

In the event that a shelter is not within walking distance, volunteer drivers will transport participants to the host location, where dinner will be served and sleeping quarters will be provided.

For hosting sites beyond walking distance, initial transportation will be offered from about 6 to 6:15 p.m., and after spending the night at one of those host locations, program participants will be returned to the Methodist church at about 6:30 a.m.

As usual, several churches will provide overnight accommodations.

For the first time this year, Elk Grove Teen Center USA will also house homeless guests overnight. The teen center is located just west of the Methodist church.

Bremerman explained how the teen center became a hosting site.

“It turned out that we had a few churches that had their own difficulties and were unable to be a hosting site, and we went out and looked for new hosting sites,” he said. “The Teen Center USA has, (as) part of their enabling legislation, (that) they have to provide for a number of low-income people. Well, guess what we have in our group?”

Because the teen center does not have adults to provide meals and overnight assistance, as churches normally would, EG WINS is working with the Rotary Club of Elk Grove, other host churches and individuals to volunteer at the center.

With recent news that the county canceled its own winter sanctuary program after an eight-year run, Bremerman noted that he does not believe that decision will have much, if any, impact on Elk Grove’s winter sanctuary.

“I don’t know what is going to happen to a lot of these folks,” he said. “I hope the city and county (of Sacramento) come up with an interim solution.

“Our experience has been that where people become homeless, more often than not, it’s where they will seek help for their situations. So, if you grew up in Elk Grove and became homeless, you’re not going downtown to get help. You’re staying in Elk Grove.

“When you go out into another community, you’re going into an unknown, and it’s very uncomfortable.”

All participants of Elk Grove’s winter sanctuary are required to be at least 18 years old and should not bring pets to the shelter.

The program is limited to 20 people per night, and there have been a few times in its history when people were turned away for exceeding that capacity.

The Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary will continue through Feb. 29.