HELENA — As frigid conditions arrived in Helena, leaders at God’s Love, the local homeless shelter, said they saw a big jump in the number of people needing their services.
Rachel Saunders, office manager for the shelter’s director, said they had 14 new clients ask to move in over the weekend. She got requests from seven more just on Monday morning.
“Normally what happens for us is, right when we hear that there’s going to be a winter storm, everyone checks in,” she said.
To provide more social distancing during COVID-19, the shelter already had to cut back its available beds for men – from 31 to 25. Saunders said all of those are full, and they expect to have the seven beds for women and nine family rooms filled soon. Currently, 16 people are staying in “overflow” areas.
“What overflow means is that we store people and their stuff wherever we can,” said Saunders. “That’s going to be up in the offices, in the back, in the dining room.”
However, that is actually still lower than the 36 people they had in overflow last winter. Saunders said that may be due to housing assistance and other support programs during the pandemic, which are helping people with insecure housing stay in their homes.
“It’s a little bit easier right now to give people the six-foot distancing, but what we’re going to be facing is, ‘Okay, what other parts of the building can we put people that will allow for the six-foot distancing?’” she said.
Saunders said God’s Love’s biggest needs right now are for socks, gloves, scarves and other winter clothes. They are also looking for disinfectant wipes, bleach and other cleaning supplies, as they’re cleaning much more frequently due to COVID.
Saunders said they are grateful for the Helena community’s continued generosity.