Shelters preparing for unprecedented weather

With unprecedented cold weather gripping our region, shelters are prepared to exceed capacity.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – With unrelenting bitter cold weather and blizzard conditions headed our way Thursday, shelters are making sure they are equipped with extra beds for anyone who may need one.

Arnold Johnson is the Executive Director of Emergency Shelter Management Services in New Haven.

“We actually will extend our capacity to accommodate individuals,” Johnson told News 8.

Johnson is prepared to get more than 80 beds ready, each with a warm blanket and pillow for anyone in need.  The overnight shelter is also serving free, hot meals and keeping their doors open day and night for the safety of those who need to get out of elements.

“We give our clients the option to stay in during the day just to keep them safe,” Johnson said.  “It’s not just cold, it’s frigid.”

With the extended hours comes extra staff to clean, cook and volunteer. A pricey and unforeseen expense for the non-profit.

“I had to make provisions staff-wise to make sure people were here to handle the situation,” Johnson added.

The homeless, including Billy Stone say without a warm shelter, he and many others would have nowhere else to go.

“A lot of us have nowhere,” Stone said.  “It makes me depressed and it’s just very uncomfortable and disheartening.”

At Columbus House, staff is adding cots for women since there are not overflow shelters for women in New Haven.  Financially thought, they too say it is difficult.

John Jessen is the deputy director of the New Haven Public Library.  They’re a designated warming shelter and Jessen says it shows in this extreme cold.

“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in people coming into the library,” Jessen said.  “At the end of the day, I go home and have a nice warm place and it’s really important to remember that there are people who don’t have a place at all to go.”

Many shelters say this is the longest stretch they have had to house so many people overnight and during the day. With the cold temperatures sticking around, they say this likely just the beginning.

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