(Saturday, March 15, 2014)
By John P. Gregg
Valley News Staff Writer
White River Junction — Demand has been steady and strong for beds at an overnight “warming shelter” that the Upper Valley Haven opened in January, according to officials at the White River Junction-based shelter.
“We have 10 cots, and we’ve been accommodating anywhere from six to 10 people a night, depending on the cold and a variety of conditions,” Liz Verney, a spokeswoman for the Haven, said on Friday. “People have been really receptive to being there, and appreciate that we have it.”
The Haven opened the warming shelter in the cafe area of its Byrne Community Services Building off Route 5 on Jan. 22.
“We take all the furniture out of there and turn it into a place where people can sleep,” Verney said.
The room is adjacent to the Haven’s kitchen, and the “guests” are also offered snacks and warm beverages as well.
The Haven website said its goal in opening the facility is “to provide basic safe shelter for those who need it during cold weather months when our regular shelters are full.”
The Haven’s adult shelter, with 20 beds, is “always full,” and the 46-bed family shelter is also often at capacity, depending on the size of families using the facility, Verney said.
Homeless people using the residential shelter have access to long-term programs to help them “get back on their feet,” Verney said, and also can leave some of their possessions there overnight.
By contrast, people staying in the overnight warming shelter cannot leave possessions, and do have to go elsewhere during the day.
“At this point, we don’t have the ability to store bags overnight,” she said. “They do have to find another place to be during the day.”
Guests are admitted to the warming shelter between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., though the Haven does accommodate later arrivals under certain circumstances, such as when police bring in someone they’ve found out in the cold. A Haven employee, along with two volunteers, help welcome and screen guests, and Verney said the warming shelter is an opportunity for people living in a car or tent to learn about Haven services and “work with us to find a better solution.”
Verney said the warming shelter will definitely run through the end of March, “and if there’s a cold snap, we’ll continue it.”
The Haven also plans to reopen the facility in the late fall, she said.
John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews. com.
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