Shelters fill up during recent cold snap

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The last few days have been very cold in the area, and those temperatures are impacting one local homeless shelter.

On Monday, Charlottesville saw a high in the 70s, but just 24 hours later, temperatures dropped to below freezing.

Organizations that help the homeless reacted when the weather forecast called for the cold.

"Spent the last few weeks trying to tell a lot of our folks that we thought were going to need our shelters that they needed to start planning for it," said Jayson Whitehead, the executive director of PACEM. "When a cold snap like this happens, it is definitely hard to get their attention and for those that need us, it really pushes them for them to come in and see if we have space."

PACEM, which means People and Congregations Engaged in Ministry, provides shelter for the homeless from October to April each year, and with the recent cold, that shelter filled up quickly.

"We have been full the last two nights already and its only early November," added Whitehead.

During the last two seasons, the overnight shelter has also seen the number of people in need go up.

"The last two seasons, we really started to see a higher number," said Whitehead. "There was even a stretch last January where there was even an overflow every night. So, we are anticipating something similar to that again."

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says there are more than 180 people in homeless shelters in Charlottesville on any given night.

"It is definitely on the rise in Virginia and in our community," said Stephen Hitcock, the executive director of the Haven. "However, organizations are increasingly committed to housing people who are at risk or who are experiencing homelessness, whether it's PACEM or the Region Ten or the Haven."

That commitment is to more than just serve them when it's cold. The organizations want to help the homeless get off the streets.

"Our whole continuum service that is providing wraparound support with our folks and hopefully getting them off the streets ultimately," Whitehead said.

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