Homeless Shelters Crowd With Cold & Bad Economy

January 15, 2009

The following article was reported on Rockford’s News Channel 23 – WIFR on 1/14/2009

Weather like this makes us thankful to be indoors and that’s how area homeless are feeling as they crowd local shelters to escape the frigid cold.

“I appreciate it very much,” says one man checking into the Red Cross downtown Rockford shelter.

Appreciation is all the Red Cross needs in exchange for a hot meal and a warm bed and as the temperature plummets below zero, it’s a full house, with 49 people planning to stay at the overnight shelter on Cedar Street in downtown Rockford.

Several people said they didn’t even want to think about where they would be without this shelter.

“Underneath a bridge or making a fire down but the river or something,” says one overnight resident.

Another adds, “I really believe that God takes care of his children so I am thankful to him and to this place.”

And these days the cold isn’t the only thing driving people to area shelters. Red Cross volunteers say more people are coming in saying they’ve lost their jobs and can’t afford rent anymore.

“I hear more and more people say that they’ve never stayed in a shelter before. So it’s not the usual people that you would see,” says Red Cross Volunteer Nancy Burkett.

Betty Irelan falls in that category. Even though she struggles with diabetes, she says she’s been working since she was ten, but recently hit job troubles and has been unemployed since June.

“So I went like seven months without any money and finally the landlord got upset and evicted me last Friday,” says Irelan.

And even as more people are in need of help, it’s harder for the Red Cross to meet that need, because donations are down. They especially need warm socks and toiletries.

But workers say even when they fill up, they’ll never leave someone out in the cold.

“Everyone deserves to have a warm safe place to stay,” says Burkett.

I also spoke with a man who said he actually has a full time job, but he said he would still be out on the street without the Red Cross.

If you need help from the Red Cross, or you would like to make a donation, call 815-963-8471, or visit http://www.rockriver.redcross.org.

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