‘Stretched even thinner:’ Orlando shelter sees fewer volunteers ahead of Christmas weekend

Shelters struggle with more people in need due to rent costs, hurricanes

ORLANDO, Fla. – This holiday weekend, shelters for the homeless are expected to extend capacity due to expected freezing weather.

Martha Are with The Homeless Services Network of Central Florida in Orlando said the weather will pose a safety risk.

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“Like you’d expect, many staff and volunteers are out for the holidays, and so folks are scrambling to cover and add some capacity,” Are said. “It’s a very hard weekend, and it’s very draining on the people that are here because they are going to be stretched even thinner, covering a lot more bases. It takes its toll on the staff who commit and the volunteers who commit to come in and giving up their (holiday) and being there to make sure folks have a warm place to go.”

The Salvation Army said they’ve dropped off blankets and food donations to shelters across Central Florida.

Homeless advocates said there are more people seeking services related to homelessness than ever before.

“I think it’s also a reminder that we have to continue working on efforts to make sure we have enough housing so everybody has a warm home to live in, and that nobody is forced to make this choice about going into a shelter just so they don’t freeze to death or not,” Are said. “We’ve already been identified, this region, as having literally the worst housing market for very low income people in the entire country, and so as rents continue to go up, damage from hurricanes, all that is why we are seeing more people who are struggling to find a place to live.”

Many shelters will begin their increased capacity on Friday afternoon.

Information can also be found by calling 211 and 311. For a list of cold shelters this weekend, click here.

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Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.