Local Homeless Shelters at Full Capacity

Wednesday, Dec 29, 2010  |  Updated 6:45 AM EDT
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Local Homeless Shelters at Full Capacity

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398225 03: A panhandler begs for money December 5, 2001 in downtown Cincinnati. The city of Cincinnati is trying to come up with ways to combat the problem of panhandling which they say is keeping people from coming downtown to do their Christmas shopping. (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)

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Sarah Anderson, 28, is a regular at Carpenter's Shelter in Alexandria, Va. She says even though this winter hasn't brought much snow, it's a bad one.

"I've been homeless almost nine years...and I think this is about the coldest winter that I've experienced so far," Anderson says.

The winter shelter at Carpenter's opens when the temperature drops below freezing or if sleet and snow are making it especially dangerous to be outside.

In November, the shelter was open 23 nights -- compared with 10 nights in November in 2009 -- and it housed almost twice as many people.

Shelter Manager Joe Boddie says there is a silver lining to the high numbers. The shelter can assist with other needs, such as helping with job and housing searches. Or clients can help themselves.

"There was no computer lab here last year, so we opened it. We weren't sure...of how often someone would use it, but people use it every single day," Boddie says.

In D.C., Augustine Frazier manages the the New York Avenue Homeless Assistance Center, run by Catholic Charities. He says when the cold temperatures force more people inside, staff can use that opportunity to help clients who have, for example, mental health and substance abuse issues.

"You are right there, I am right here...you don't have anywhere but to look at me," Frazier says.

The New York Avenue shelter has been at 100 percent capacity since the weather started getting cold.

Listen to the complete story at wamu.org

Copyright 2010 WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio. All Rights Reserved.

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