Winter Shelters are extra busy this year

Feb 11, 2014

Not surprisingly, more homeless people have been seeking refuge from the bitter cold temperatures at Cincinnati's winter shelter. 

About 60 beds are used at the Drop Inn Center and another 40 are located at Prince of Peace Church in Over-the-Rhine.  They are available from December through February.  

Officials told a city council committee Monday so far this winter about 600 different people have stayed at the shelter.  That's the same number served all of last winter.  The majority of them are males and range in age from 18 to 59. 

Kevin Finn with Strategies to End Homelessness said financially the winter shelter program is put together "on a wing and a prayer."

"That's why we didn't really have the option to commit to things like opening earlier than mid-December, or staying open later than the end of February," Finn said.  "Because the reality was that if we were opening it December 1st and opening at 5 p.m., that by mid-February we're out of money and we close it altogether."

So far this winter the shelter program has cost about $90,000, and the agencies have collected about $142,000 to fund it.  That increase is largely thanks to $50,000 Council authorized for the program in November. 

Finn said they fundraise for the shelter year round, but many corporations and foundations are not interested in donating money when the weather is not cold.

Council Member Chris Seelbach said he wants additional financial information on changes the program's schedule.

"What it would take to have a standard date of open and close," Seelbach said.  "And opening at six o'clock, you know 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. or something like that.  At least let's see what those numbers are.  Because it we're going to continue to have winters like this, I think we have to fund it."

Officials said the cost will likely decrease when the Drop Inn Center moves to its new facility in Queensgate.  They say having two locations now makes the program more expensive.  However that new facility will likely open until late 2015.