Single-digit temperatures add hundreds of guests to Louisville homeless shelters
Bone-chilling temperatures often cause more people than usual to seek refuge in homeless shelters but the increase in occupancy leads to higher operating costs.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Bone-chilling temperatures often cause more people than usual to seek refuge in homeless shelters, but the increase in occupancy leads to higher operating costs.
Wayside Christian Mission expected to nearly double its typical capacity of 331 to 500 or 550 on Tuesday night because of the single-digit temperatures.
Mats were laid out in the Mission’s gym to accommodate the extra people, which is part of the Coalition for the Homeless’ White Flag program. No one is denied a place to sleep when the temperatures dip below 35 degrees.
Shelter officials make the call to enact White Flag nights at 6 p.m. each night but will often decide days earlier if they know the temperatures will already be below 35 degrees. The city of Louisville reimburses the Coalition for the Homeless up to $40,000 a year which will then pay back other white flag locations, including Wayside.
“They generally try to reimburse us $5 per person, per night," said Nina Moseley, Chief Officer of Wayside. "That funding doesn’t last very long when you have extremely cold temperatures like this."
Shelters and organizations like St. Vincent de Paul use the allocated funds to buy additional resources like toilet paper, toiletries and food to accommodate the extra guests. However, even with the funding, providing the basic necessities can be difficult.
“This is really challenging in weather like this," said St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Ed Wnorowski. "This is life-threatening, so having a warm, safe place to sleep is really a life and death thing and not just a comfort. Very rarely does it cover every night that we serve, and it is absolutely a help.”
On Tuesday night, St. Vincent de Paul expected to bring in at least 40 people in addition to the nearly 60 overnight beds already there. During the single-digit temperatures, officials said people will do whatever they can to stay warm.
“It is my desire that everyone would come in and get out of this bitter cold, because this is the weather that homeless folks will die in,” Moseley said.
The leftover funds after winter will then be used toward paying for white flag days in the summer when the temperatures are over 95 degrees.
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