Where do the Homeless Go When Temperatures Plummet to Single Digits?

Local shelters feel the strain as increasing numbers of people are seeking assistance.

Credit: harrison.patch.com
Credit: harrison.patch.com
Old Man Winter hasn't been shy this season. We have seen several storms with snow accumulations, rain and sleet, and freezing temperatures on and off for six weeks. And Tuesday's forecast shows Carroll County will have trouble rising above single digit temperatures. 

Local shelters are feeling the strain as an increasing number of people seek cover and food.

Cindy Parr, executive director of Human Service Programs of Carroll County (HSP), said that the organization's Cold Weather Shelter - open Nov. 15 through March 31 - has seen an increase in people using the facility.

"We've seen about a 25 percent increase in people using the shelter since we opened in November," Parr said. 

Parr said HSP has been fortunate to secure a partnership with the Westminster Rescue Mission to help provide services to people seeking assistance at the Cold Weather Shelter. The Westminster Rescue Mission will take up to 10 men a night and provide shelter services when the Cold Weather Shelter is at capacity, Parr said.  

"This helps relieve some of our spacing issues," Parr said.

Parr said that the Cold Weather Shelter, located at 127 Stoner Ave. in Westminster, is averaging about 40 visitors a night. The shelter's capacity is closer to 25. 

"It gets really tight when you pack people in that space," Parr said. "That's why it's so important for us to have this relationship with the [Westminster] Rescue Mission."

Volunteers are at the heart of the shelter, Parr said. Volunteers are scheduled each night to provide a meal to those staying at the shelter as well as to assist shelter guests as they check in, get their bedding and prepare for the evening. 

The Cold Weather Shelter is open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily. With temps expected to be in single digits Tuesday, county government is offering libraries and senior centers as "warming centers" where citizens can go to escape the elements during the day. 

Laurie Gallowy manages On Our Own, located at 265 E. Main St. in Westminster, a peer support wellness and recovery program for those recovering from addiction and mental health issues.

Gallowy said that, because there is really nowhere else for homeless people to go, many of the guests from the shelters make their way to her facility during the daytime hours. She said it's frustrating because people who are there just to escape the cold or pass time can be distracting to the folks who are actually there working towards recovery.

"But what can we do? It's freezing cold outside, and these people have nowhere else to go. If they're not here, they'll just hang out on the streets," Gallowy said. 

Gallowy said that she extends the hours of her facility during the winter so homeless people have somewhere to be during the day, which creates a financial strain on her organization. 

"We're open longer which means we're spending more on overhead," Gallowy said. "Our budget doesn't account for this." 

Gallowy said that On Our Own operates with one full time staff person and one part-time person. She said that volunteer managers work in shifts to help those seeking recovery services. She said that an average of 35 people spend time during the day at her facility, not all of them there working towards recovery.

Learn more about warming center locations around Carroll County for Tuesday, Jan. 7, when temperatures aren't expected to surpass single digits. 

Lisa Haderman January 07, 2014 at 07:39 AM
Jennifer Joyce January 07, 2014 at 08:24 AM
I know right!
Jennifer Joyce January 07, 2014 at 08:24 AM
@ Lisa H.
PH January 08, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Keeping your children home due to health is issues is YOUR decision. Your kids should be given some leeway regarding homework and attendance. I have to say that closing all schools due to extremely cold weather would be inane for the general school students. It's a good teaching moment for parents/teachers also. How to dress for the weather, etc. I understand what you are saying, though. We moms will do whatever we have to to protect and care for our young ;)
PH January 08, 2014 at 06:49 PM
Aren't there any shelters for homeless WOMEN? There are plenty of those folks around, too.


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