As the temperature turns frigid again, homeless shelters are preparing for an influx of people who need to escape the cold.
This time, the cold snap is predicted to hang on for two weeks or more, potentially stressing shelter resources.
“With temperatures falling below zero, and the accompanying icy winds, it becomes a life-or-death situation for those out on the streets,” said Perry Jones, executive director of Capital City Rescue Mission on South Pearl Street in Albany. “Homeless men, women and children have no option. They can’t stay out in weather like that.”
In Amsterdam, one man tried to camp in a tent by the river before giving up and walking into the city’s tiny shelter on East Main Street. He bought a ticket to Florida, where he plans to stay with a friend and look for a job, said shelter supervisor Tyler Rush.
The shelter helped him work out his plan and drove him to the bus station.
Rush isn’t expecting many people to knock on his door because of the sudden cold, though.
“Normally the people we get are getting evicted from their apartments and coming straight from prison,” he said.
The Montgomery County Department of Social Services sends each client to the shelter, which has only eight beds. It’s full right now, so anyone who comes in from the cold will likely be placed in a motel, he said.
But he added he’s ready to take in anyone who needs a warm bed. “I wouldn’t kick anyone out into the cold, that’s for sure,” he said.
In Schenectady, the City Mission on Hamilton Street is preparing extra beds for emergency shelter during the cold weather.
In Albany, Capital City Rescue Mission workers are laying out extra mattresses at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in a joint effort that began three years ago. Jones said the shelter and the church will be “overflowing,” but he is hoping to do more than just give the homeless a warm place to sleep; he’s hoping some stay for the programs that are offered at most shelters to help people get back on their feet.
“Sometimes, it can be the little things that bring people in off the streets, such as a change of clothes, a shower or just being able to drink a cup of coffee without being bothered. And sometimes it takes frigid weather — like what’s happening now — to bring them in,” Jones said.
In Schenectady, the City Mission offers free housing for a year to those who enter its programs. Capital City offers a nine-month program, and both shelters own apartments to help residents transition to their own place.
Jones will have many days to persuade them to sign up for the programs. The cold is expected to continue through the end of the month. On Wednesday, it will feel like 15 to 25 degrees below zero with the wind chill, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Villani. The high temperature will hover around 9 or 10 degrees, with a low of 0 or slightly below.
Temperatures are predicted to be in the teens Thursday and Friday.
A brief warmup is expected Saturday, with temperatures forecast to climb into the mid-20s.
According to Villani, the week should be mainly dry, with a chance of some light accumulating snow over the weekend.