Shelter sees effects of frigid blast

The Bridge Emergency Shelter in Cortez has seen a shifting clientele since the temperatures started dropping to dangerous lows.

Shelter manager Donna Boyd said there have been many more people staying at the shelter who were not intoxicated in the past few weeks. In one 11-day span not one visitor showed up while intoxicated, Boyd said.

The shelter is divided into two sides to accommodate both sober and non-sober people who want to use the facility.

Currently, 90 percent of the people visiting the shelter are being allowed on to the "dry side," the side where non-intoxicated visitors are placed.

With the bitterly cold temperatures, Boyd said she has seen new people visiting the shelter seeking a warm place to stay for the night. The shelter opens nightly at 6 p.m.

"I suspect the bitter cold temperatures are the reason," she said.

Some homeless people sleep in their vehicles, but the cold temperatures have made that virtually impossible.

Boyd recently received four phone calls from families hoping to use the shelter because of the freezing temperatures.

Unfortunately, the shelter cannot accept families into the shelter, so they were directed elsewhere, though there is currently no actual location in the county for families who are homeless.

Boyd said the overall shelter numbers are down this season since the facility opened in mid-October, but thinks the dramatic and bitter cold has resulted in some people seeking shelter who otherwise would not have.

She also thinks acquaintances are taking in homeless and people in need, or letting them stay in places like garages because of the colder than normal weather.

The shelter manager said she feels there are many homeless people who were or are still staying with family for the holidays while others may have traveled south looking for warmer temperatures.

The shelter, during the last few weeks, has averaged 17 people a night with a low of 15. She said that February is the busiest month for the Bridge.

She said it is a little perplexing on why the numbers are down because those going back to the reservation usually do so when the climate is better.

Tragically, there have been two hypothermia-related deaths in the recent past in Cortez. A man died in January 2011 and a woman died last January.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com