Local shelters overcrowded as homeless seek refuge from the bitter cold

(Western Mass News photo)

Among those feeling the effects of the frigid temperatures are the homeless.

Local shelters are experiencing demand like they haven't seen in years as people look to come in out of the cold.

Normally, the Interfaith Winter Shelter is open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., but because of the brutal cold, the shelter has extended its hours to take in the homeless all day 24/7.

"I've been going 2,000 miles from the west coast back to the east coast. I've come back due to personal and health issues, so I decided I wanted to remain on the east coast," said Dawn Marie Haynes.

These days Haynes has been staying at Northampton's Interfaith Winter Shelter. She's been here for the past 24 days.

"This is one of the better shelters I've been in. I feel they really care," Haynes added.

However, Haynes's story is just one of the many stories of people coming to the shelter to get out of the cold and to try to get help with their lives.

"I've been here for 10 years and this is the first time we've been open so long for 24/7 because of the temperatures," said Katie Miernecki, director of Hampshire County Shelters and Housing.

No one is turned away from the cold. Those seeking shelter are given meals.

There's also a resource center to help with housing and finding a job.

With more people to serve, the needs are growing.

"We are in need of donations, hats, scarfs, gloves. Also, we need volunteers," Miernecki added.

For those seeking shelter like Haynes, they said this shelter is a godsend.

"We have an abundance of homeless right now nationally I feel are being ignored and shined aside, but I don't see that in this community. It's, I seem, a helpful approach and thank God they're here to provide that for us," Haynes noted.

This shelter has 20 beds. They've been full and then some since the bitter cold weather began.

However, this is not the only shelter bursting at the seems with an increase in homeless.

Others throughout western Massachusetts are finding themselves in the same boat as frigid temperatures drive those on the street to come in from the cold.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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