Bitter cold creates busy homeless shelters

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A week of bitter cold has led to busy homeless shelters, as staff in shelters across Portland open overflow spaces and break records for occupancy and meals served.

Staff at both Preble Street and the Oxford Street Shelter said they will not be turning anyone away, but they do need help to keep up with demand.

Mark Swann, Executive Director at Preble Street, said the shelter needs canned food.

Swann said the shelter served a record number of meals one night this week: about 512. He said on the busiest nights, the shelter usually serves about 400.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Swann.

At the Oxford Street Shelter, there is record-breaking occupancy, with about 260 people sleeping there on one night this week.

Supervisors there said they can use hats, gloves, and other clothing, along with blankets.

Both locations said they can use monetary donations to help replenish depleting supplies — and both locations said they will not turn anyone away.

Shelters in other areas of the state are experiencing similar situations.

In Old Orchard Beach, the Salvation Army has opened as an emergency shelter through Sunday.