Homeless shelters saw uptick in need with back-to-back weather events

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

When inclement weather hits the area, homeless shelters become really busy really fast.

This week the region saw back-to-back weather events, with significant snowfall Sunday morning and into the afternoon. Then, a couple of days later, more snow combined with sleet and rain struck, which forced the cancelation of many area schools.

“Obviously, when you have weather that comes in like that, that’s so close together, and the wintertime is hard in general on homeless shelters here locally because the weather’s so bad, our services are needed more,” said Bobby Grove, executive director of Haven House Emergency Shelter in Hamilton. “We’ll probably see a 20% to 25% increase in the usage of the service in the next 30 days.”

“What happens is when people who are transient homeless, who are living in a car or a friend’s garage, when weather like this they can’t stay there and then they start making the phone calls to see what a better option would be, and that’s where we come in,” Grove said of their 120-bed space on High Street. “We’re prepped for this. We’re equipped for this. This is what we do.”

Serve City needed to pull out its spare mattresses to serve the extra people who are homeless.

The agency’s residential program is always full, so when the bad weather struck on Saturday and Sunday, it had nearly a dozen more seeking overnight shelter. Serve City had its overnight shelter open every day in response to COVID since Dec. 25, 2020.

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, it served 12.

“When it’s cold, they do have an uptick,” said Heather Luker-Smith, Serve City’s residential director. “Our residential programs are constantly full. Our beds here are full with 52 people every single day of the year.”

Serve City Executive Director Tammi Ector said back-to-back weather events “is a challenge for sure, but that’s what we exist to do, to provide help to those who are hurting and are in need.”

Those people seeking emergency shelter this week not only got out of the elements, but they received up to three meals (depending on how long they stayed), bags that contained gloves, hats and personal hygiene items, and they were given access to laundry and showers facilities.

Even before inclement weather arrives, Hope House, which operates homeless shelters for men, women and children in Middletown, tries to be “pro-active” by contacting homeless in area camps, said Tim Williams, executive director of operations.

He said Victoria Hensley from OneCity, who works with the Middletown Division of Police, contacts individuals who are experiencing homelessness and attempts to convince them to seek shelter at Hope House. Williams said Hensley met two homeless men late in the day Tuesday and talked them into going to Hope House.

Williams said some of the city’s homeless spend just a day or two at Hope House, while others spend more time and take advantage of all the services.

Hope House’s men’s shelter is operating at near capacity with 45 men, he said. The women’s shelter is averaging about 26. The capacity depends on whether all the homeless are single women or those with children who then are housed in an entire dorm room.

Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM) isn’t typically weather doesn’t impact the number of clients served by the church-based organization every winter, said Bill Fugate, volunteer coordinator for the organization.

“They either want to stay out or come in,” he said.

He said the shelter has been near capacity this year. He said the host churches could serve up to 30 people, a combination of men, women, and children. SHALOM hosted 28 on Tuesday night, Fugate said.