Homelessness
4:30 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Extreme Cold in Connecticut a Concern for Homeless and Advocates

Credit Rosie O'Beirne / Creative Commons

With single digit temperatures and below-zero wind chills in the forecast for Monday night and Tuesday, Governor Malloy has enacted the state's severe weather protocol, which coordinates homeless shelters and various state agencies though the state's 211 information and referral line. 

Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said the protocol enactment ensures housing for anyone who requests it. "Our shelters are already oversubscribed," she said. "When it is extremely cold, the state will make available resources such that shelters can move to a hotel if need be. Someone who is already in a shelter can make sure that someone else trying to get into a shelter can get a space."

Meanwhile, advocates for the homeless are scrambling to make sure everyone has a warm place to stay. In these extreme cold temperatures, frostbite and hypothermia are a real concern for the homeless.

Teams have been hitting the streets to make sure everyone is aware of the danger. "When we know there is a big storm coming, we are eager to find everybody," said Alison Cunningham, executive director of Columbus House, which runs two homeless shelters in New Haven. "We send our folks out during the day, and again in the afternoon, to make sure we can make contact with all [the homeless]."

Cunningham said that during last week's storm, only one homeless person in New Haven refused to come to a shelter. The Columbus House staff will be working overtime to accommodate the surge of people expected in their shelters over the next 24 hours.

Lisa Tepper Bates said the extreme cold offers homeless shelters a rare opportunity to treat and assess the needs of the small percentage of homeless people who usually never seek shelter, even in the cold winter months.