Cold Weather, Busy Shelters
Workers at homeless shelters in the Helena area say since lower-than-usual temperatures arrived, they have seen an increase in the number of people looking for a warm place to stay.
Melinda Reed, Executive Director of the Friendship Center, says she has experienced more people calling in to stay at the facility, many of them in circumstances that are unsafe in frigid temperatures.
“We have been hearing stories of people who had been living in their cars or perhaps outdoors and whereas before that was not ideal but safe, now you simply cannot live in a car outside in this weather, absolutely not an option.
The shelter's transitional center has eight rooms and a waiting list, so workers refer people to other organizations in town like God's Love.
Workers there say they have more than 60 people staying overnight, about 50 is normal for December.
God’s Love Co-director Joe Wojton says “Normally we see the type of crowd we're seeing now towards the middle to end of January or beginning of February traditionally when the temperatures start dropping below zero.
He says the shelter has been coping well, by making use of couches and floor space in the dining room area.
“We've been rolling out the mats out on the floor, we've been sleeping people on the couches, we've been doing what we need to so we can keep people warm.
As a result, God's Love doesn't turn people away.
“A car just doesn't cut it when it gets this cold.”
And back at the friendship center, Reed is staying positive even with the hardships the weather is bringing.
“Hopefully we can get through this; I understand the weather's only going to be really bad for a few more days, so hopefully we can get through this period.”
Workers at God's Love say the extra donations they received during Thanksgiving have been very handy with the extra people staying overnight at the shelter.
Story by Luba Solonenko, Beartooth NBC.
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