Some of the homeless people in the Salt Lake area have had to get on waiting lists to find shelter from the bitter cold.
At the Salt Lake Community Shelter and Resource Center, all of the beds are full, so staff members have put cots up to accommodate the overflow. The shelter, which was designed to house about 240 men, routinely has had around 300 men a night since the weather turned nasty.The story is the same throughout Salt Lake County's homeless provider system.
"We have waiting lists in the men's shelter, but the people are getting in right now," Patrick Poulin, director of the shelter's operating agency, Travelers Aid, said. "Not all of them come back after they sign up; some have found other places to stay."
The Rescue Mission, which has 50 bunks, is also full. Twenty homeless men have been sleeping on the chapel floor, according to a staffer who identified himself as Mike.
The situation is no better for women and children who are homeless. Marillac House normally has 16 beds. They're all occupied, and some women are doubling up with their infants and small children.
"We had a breather in November," said Mona Knapp, Marillac House. "But we've been basically full since the end of summer. I don't think it's all the weather; there just seems to be more people. Even in summer when it was warm, we were full."
Poulin said that the women's shelter operated by Travelers Aid has about 30 homeless women staying there, which is "capacity" for that facility.
The family shelter, designed for about 110 total family members, has 28 families a night. "We're real full," Poulin said.
Historically, the shelters are bombarded with well-wishers and presents during the holiday season. This year is no exception.
"This community is so generous, it's overwhelming," Knapp said. "There's no lack of generosity and our volunteers are busy the whole time."
Knapp, like other providers, is torn between gratitude and frustration. People need to give at Christmas - and the people staying in shelters need to receive. But during the holidays staff is overwhelmed trying to keep up. The rest of the year, a lot of the needs aren't met.
The Salt Lake homeless shelter has received a lot of in-kind gifts this winter - personal toiletries, food and other material items and volunteer time. But Poulin is concerned about the shelter's ability to pay its operating costs throughout the cold season."Giving of cash is down," he said.
"We're just hoping to keep it open and as full as possible as long as possible. Our basic need is operating funds so we can stay open through the winter."