The icy temperatures are driving up demand for emergency shelter at the Inter-Faith Council’s Community House.
IFC Residential Services Director Elizabeth Waugh-Deford says this past weekend, the emergency shelter served an average of 60 men each night, a trend she expects to see continue through the week as the weather stays cold.
The shelter can usually accommodate 50, but on nights when the temperature dips below freezing, staff put out extra cots and yoga mats for anyone who needs to come inside.
Waugh-Deford says they have an immediate need for supplies to help meet the increased demand.
“One thing we really need right now is more blankets because we haven’t had enough blankets for the extra guys who have had to be in the shelter,” says Waugh-Deford.
While IFC staffers are doing all they can to help the homeless stay warm this winter, the nonprofit won’t be able to serve 60 men a night this time next year.
That’s because when the Community House shifts to a new location off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard next summer, the organization will be changing its service model as well, focusing on long-term transitional housing instead of emergency shelter.
While many recognize the need for a new shelter to serve Orange County, there’s not yet a plan in place to replace all the beds at the Community House.
“I know it’s an on-going conversation among the local governments and in our community in general, what to do when we transition to being primarily a transitional men’s shelter,” says Waugh-Deford.
She says the new site will still have beds available during weather emergencies, but the number of people they can accommodate will be far lower.
“We’ll still have 17 emergency beds for inclement weather in our new shelter. We would still have those beds available when it is really cold. The difference is that they’re not going to be available if we don’t have inclement weather.”
In the meantime, those without shelter are facing a week of bitter cold. If you’re looking to help, you can find out more here.