Homeless shelters see varying need as temperatures start to drop

An overnight shelter for homeless adults says it has been full nearly every day since it opened at the beginning of the month. The La Crosse Warming Center has had to use its overflow space to accommodate the surge of people.

The warming center has enough space for 40 people to stay overnight, but it can take a few more people if absolutely necessary.

“We’ve had 42 to 45 individuals staying at the warming center, and so it’s been very, very busy,” said Roberto Partarrieu, executive director of Catholic Charities, which runs the center.

Catholic Charities staff members are seeing more young people and individuals with addiction walk through the doors.

“And I think the population is actually growing and increasing,” Partarrieu said.

There are a number of reasons why this might be the case. There have been 23 days of below-average temperatures so far this month. While cold weather could be to blame, there could be a deeper issue in our community.

“We have a lot of people who are working that actually stay in our shelter simply because they cannot afford housing,” Partarrieu said.

While the warming center is filling up, the Salvation Army continues to have beds available for single adults and families.

“We can serve up to 80 folks on any given day, and we have some space yet. So if people are cold, they have a place to go,” said Stacy Mitby, director of social services at the Salvation Army in La Crosse.

Mitby said she has talked to a few people about why they haven’t gone inside for the night yet. They replied they just weren’t ready yet, but that could change.

“I think now, with it getting colder and the snow coming, I think we’ll probably see an increase,” Mitby said.

Even if they don’t need to stay overnight, anyone is welcome to stay in the gym during the day when temperatures fall below freezing.

“It’s not just for those in the shelter. So that’s another thing, another way we try to reach out to folks, so they are not out in the cold all day,” Mitby said.

Representatives for both organizations said they are always looking for more volunteers to assist.

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