Arlington’s Emergency Winter Shelter is now open, and will remain open continuously until the oncoming arctic cold front, expected to bring temperatures down to the single digits with a wind chill below zero degrees Fahrenheit, passes after tomorrow night.
The shelter, at 2049 15th Street N. in Courthouse, has capacity for 73 homeless clients, according to spokesman Jan-Michael Sacharko of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), which operates the shelter. However, it can provide some overflow shelter, if need be, and can send up to 15 people to the Residential Program Center on Columbia Pike.
“Temperatures are expected to drop overnight Monday to single digits,” Arlington Department of Human Services Director Susanne Eisner said in a press release. “We urge anyone who is on the streets — and anyone who knows someone who has no place to shelter from these life-threatening weather conditions — to come to the Emergency Winter Shelter.”
Normally the shelter is open from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. daily. Sacharko said the decision was reached on Friday to keep the shelter open round-the-clock Monday and Tuesday, and since then A-SPAN has been performing outreach to try to get people off the streets and out of danger.
“All last week and at our weekend service sites, outreach staff were informing clients on the street and at the shelter that we would be open those days and that a severe cold front was coming,” Sacharko said. “We’ve been attempting to spread the word today as well with our outreach staff. They regularly do go looking for people to bring services to every day.”
Terrance Toussaint, the director the emergency shelter, said he expects about 10-12 more people will spend the next two nights at the shelter above the usual 70 or so clients. The increase would be higher, he said, if there weren’t other shelters in the area also open to the homeless. Toussaint said he’s satisfied that as many endangered people as possible have heard the message about the impending cold.
“The folks who you’ll still see on the street, they want to be on the street,” he told ARLnow.com. “That could be for mental health reasons, or some are chronic homeless who are hardcore and prefer to camp out. One or two of those will come in tonight.”
Outreach workers for A-SPAN will still try to serve those individuals, bringing them extra coats and blankets and hot soup, Toussaint said, while doing their best to convince them to come in from the cold.