Assisting local homeless shelters as temperatures drop

Rachael Bittiker, the public affairs and community development director at Community Action Partnership St. Joseph, talks during an interview with News-Press NOW.

Temperatures have started to drop after months of people struggling with a global pandemic that has changed daily life.

Now, flu season is approaching and with all the special factors, shelters and organizations working to help the homeless are now preparing for a winter unlike any other.

Rachael Bittiker, the public affairs and community development director at Community Action Partnership St. Joseph said they are ready for a busy season at their shelters.

“We do know that we will be seeing a spike and we will see an increase of individuals coming into the shelter,” Bittiker said.

Typically, the organization is able to house up to 72 people. But, with current COVID-19 regulations, the capacity has dropped to only being able to shelter 42 people. Staff are moving around sleeping arrangements to be able to increase capacity to 55, but it’s still not enough compared to typical capacity numbers in the 70s.

“We’re hoping to get as close as we possibly can to that number but also make sure that we’re being safe, we’re using the masks and all of that,” she said.

Bittiker said this is a time agencies like hers need help from people in the community. While current stress factors are hitting everyone, she said the change of season is a time when the homeless community needs to be helped.

“Currently there’s a lot of things going on in the community. We have the cold weather coming up and we also have the COVID situation that every nonprofit organization is dealing with, and it really falls pretty hard on the homeless population,” Bittiker said.

As weather gets colder, CAP is needing to gather clothing, coats, socks, gloves and hats from the community. Donations can be dropped off at CAP offices throughout the city.

The YWCA is another shelter in town and it houses only women. YWCA staff said the number of people in their care right now is down, but they still need supplies for homes such as comforters, sheet sets, curtains and pillows, cookware and dishes.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.riddell@newspressnow.com