With the winter season approaching, homeless shelters in New Haven are preparing for an influx of clients during the coldest weeks of the year.
To accommodate more people, shelter leaders will utilize the maximum amount of space available in shelters, which they said is routine around the holidays. In addition to using more space in the shelter, those who run New Haven’s shelters are working to combat the cold. A group of people gathered in City Hall on Wednesday to pick up winter wear collected by the citywide coat drive that was organized on Nov. 15. In order to spread holiday cheer, the shelters are also busy planning holiday meals for clients.
Columbus House, a local shelter, already opened their overflow space, which provides additional bedding for the homeless, on Nov. 15 and intends to keep it open until Apr. 15, said Director of Programs and Services Letticia Brown-Gambino. She said the overflow space accomodates 75 men.
“No one stays out in the cold,” Brown-Gambino said. “If the weather is harsh and folks don’t have programs to go to during the day, they can stay in.”
Both Columbus House and Emergency Shelter Management Services, another local organization, adjust their rules for clients in the daytime during the winter months. On days when the outside temperature is below freezing, ESMS allows clients to stay inside and provides lunch. Usually clients leave the shelter by 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning, said ESMS Program Manager Walter Brunson.
Brunson said that while the volume of people approaching ESMS for support will rise, the shelter will carry out all programs as usual.
Paul Kosowsky, vice president of program operations at Youth Continuum, said he expects to accommodate more infants and toddlers this year. Youth Continuum provides support for 200-250 young people under the age of 26, many of whom have children of their own. Though there are hundreds of youth in need of services, the shelter can only provide housing for 40 clients, Kosowsky said, but added that they are all invited to partake in the organization’s holiday festivities.
The staff at Youth Continuum will prepare a special Christmas dinner from food that is collected through donations, Kosowsky added. He said that in case the shelter lacks donations, Youth Continuum will reach out to organizations such as YHHAP for additional resources.
YHHAP Coordinators Julia Calagiovanni ’15 and Shea Jennings ’16 said that winter is challenging for YHHAP because homeless citizens need both a place to sleep and shelter from the New England winter weather during the day, but space in shelters is limited.
Clients at ESMS will receive gifts, usually clothes, from the shelter’s volunteers.