Eau Claire shelter dealing with overflow on cold nights

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- One of Eau Claire's largest homeless shelters is experiencing overflow this season.

Sojourner House says in recent months it has observed more homeless women and men than it can accommodate. With winter weather upon us, shelter overflow has been an issue. Brianne Berres with Catholic Charities has served as Director at Sojourner House since April. She says in that time, demand for shelter has been high.

Sojourner House is an overnight shelter, serving men and women over the age of 18. "With the cold winter weather, the demand at the shelter has been high, resulting in people having to be turned away most nights.

"The first couple snow storms, people were running to shelter trying to figure out where am I going to sleep? What am I going to do?” said Berres.

The shelter has a capacity of 53 guests and can accommodate up to 62 people when overnight temperatures fall below 15 degrees. Sometimes this still isn’t enough to meet the demand. Berres says it’s terribly difficult to turn someone away.

She says those who are turned away end up sleeping in parking ramps or down by the river, even on the coldest nights. The shelter began reaching out to community partners for more options.

The shelter began working with Christ Church Cathedral on Farewell Street in October. The church will provide an overnight warming center on nights when the weather falls below 15 degrees.

While this is a huge help, Berres says tackling homelessness will take a lot more. “Shelter is a band aid and we really need to be working with people on getting them into affordable housing options and services that are set up to help people with first month’s rent,” she said.

Berres says over the last month she's seen several people get placed into housing so things are improving but the winter weather will still continue to impact many homeless individuals throughout the season. The church warming center is in need of more volunteers.

The warming center now has a website where individuals can sign up to volunteer and learn more about the mission as well as ask questions. To access that website, click here.