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Local Homeless Shelters Struggling To Meet Winter Demand

Local homeless shelters are preparing for winter as temperatures drop across Northeast Ohio. While many Cleveland shelters already operate at capacity, staffers say there are still people without shelter in the harsh weather.

The first winter storm of the season already blew through Cleveland, bringing a temperature drop of more than 10 degrees and mixed precipitation.

Volunteers, including Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Chris Knestrick, delivered sleeping bags, firewood and other cold-weather essentials to homeless encampments around the city Monday night in an effort to keep people safe through the storm.

Women and children are a significant portion of the local homeless population, he says, but family-friendly shelters are full to the point of discomfort for some.

“We haven’t gotten to the point where families are sleeping on the street in our community, but there are individuals we have worked with who have really kind of refused to stay in the family shelters because they’re so absolutely overcrowded,” Knestrick says.

Public perception of homelessness focuses on single adults, but there’s a need for more family shelters in the community, Knestrick says, and local shelters already hit capacity every night, even in the summer.

Those shelters often require identifying information and get overcrowded, which can keep people from wanting to stay.

“It’s really important that we have low-barrier hospitality centers for folks to go into to stay warm and simply survive,” Knestrick says.

A new, low-barrier facility is in the works right now, Knestrick says, but it won’t open its doors for more than a week.

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