Local homeless shelters brace for surge in occupancy during winter storm

January 18, 2019 11:36 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) - Rochester area homeless shelters braced for an expected surge in people seeking warm places to stay Friday night as forecasts predicted a heavy snowstorm over the weekend.

"As the storm ramps up, more people will be coming in," said Deacon Daniel Callan, operations manager of the REACH ministry house, "and we don't want them to be out in the storm of course, so they'll be here for the night."


REACH volunteers laid out extra mattresses as permitted by the state Code Blue designation for cold weather situations. 

While its normal limit is 24 people, the house held 35 Friday night with more expected.  

During one cold snap in December, the facility held more than 40 guests for three days, Callan said.

During Code Blue conditions, teams from Monroe County's Department of Human Services hit the county's streets doing sweeps to reach out to homeless populations to offer them refuge via 19 agencies, including REACH. 

"Homeless people are very strong people," said Rev. Peter Peters, co-chairman of the REACH ministry. "They will find their way here and we will not turn anyone away. We have extra mattresses that we have in storage and we will find a way."

A representative for Monroe County government said the sweeps of homeless communities would continue into the weekend as the weather deteriorated. 

Callan urged anyone facing a crisis to call 911 or the Human Services hotline at 211.

On Friday night, Callan fielded calls from people seeking a place to stay and observed that cold weather could be one thing but a heavy snowstorm was another. 

"The snow is a bigger factor," he said, "because it blows into everything. So they get wet. If they're even a little bit warm, they start getting wet. You know, the same thing will happen when the temperature gets down below zero. They just can't get warm and they decide they have to come in."

Peters said that in addition to a surge in people seeking shelter, REACH also saw a jump in donations, frequently of clothing or food. 

But he added that a snowstorm and rush of people needing help would also make an opportune time for anyone considering donating money too.

He urged the public to consider it at a time like this.

News10NBC will keep you up to date on-air and online with full coverage of the winter storm.

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Charles Molineaux

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