Extreme cold weather and the homeless

DearEdward/via Flickr
January 3, 2014

After the heavy snowfall yesterday, the Southern Tier returned to a mostly normal routine today. The roads were plowed and businesses were open again. But extreme cold still has its hold on the region. A local coalition is working to insure all have a warm place to sleep tonight.

Carole Coppens is Executive Director of the Broome County YWCA. The YWCA partners with the YMCA, and a number of other charitable groups to form the Coalition for the Homeless of the Souther Tier.

Coppens says the coalition's goal is to end homelessness, period. But during the winter they run a special program to guarantee shelter for anybody who needs it.

"Every year from November through March, the Coalition for the Homeless of the Southern Tier declares those months are no freeeze, meaning we will find a place for someone to stay.  We will make sure they don't be left out in the cold."

The coalition works with Broome County Social Services, which identifies an individual or family who needs shelter. The county then asks organizations in the coalititon to provide the warm bed.

Shari Weiss is the coalition's chairperson. Weiss says the YWCA is equipped with just 12 emergency shelter beds.

"However on a night like this where it's going to be below zero, we'll put them in a lounge. We'll put them on a couch, whatever we have to do to keep someone from freezing."

They've even gone so far as to put people up in a hotel for the night. Weiss says the need for emergency shelter is not unique to the winter months alone.

"This need doesn't stop when it gets warm out. This need happens every single day of every single year.'

Weiss says the coalition for the homeless can always use more support from the community. They receive money from the federal government, but that means they are required to find housing in the winter for people who need them.