As overnight temperatures become bitterly cold, shelters are open in Owensboro and Bowling Green. When there are not enough beds available, some homeless men and women have to be turned away, even if they have to get up in the morning to go to work.
Room in the Inn can accommodate about a dozen people per night in each host church that participates in its Bowling Green winter shelter program. Beds are filled by a lottery system based on the number of beds available each night.
Sharli Rogers is program coordinator for Room in the Inn Bowling Green, a winter shelter that’s been open since Nov. 15.
Rogers said the program coordinates with community churches, with each one providing beds for about a dozen people each night. But there have already been cold nights when 18 people asked for a bed and that number is expected to increase.
“And those that we can’t take at all that didn’t get in on the lottery, basically what we’re doing is we’re offering them a sleeping bag and a tarp to protect themselves for the evening," said Rogers. "We ask them to come back at 6 a.m. to our warming shelter so we can lay eyes on them and make sure they’re still OK. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking.”
Rogers said some people have the misconception that homeless people seeking shelter are not trying to earn a living.
“We see a lot of folks who are actually employed, but they’re in jobs where they’re not earning enough to afford an apartment," said Rogers. "So we’re dealing more with the issues of getting folks transportation to work. That was not something we worried about as much when we first started.”
The Salvation Army Emergency Shelter in Bowling Green has six family units that are always full and 77 beds for men. The shelter coordinator said 68 of those beds have been full recently. The Salvation Army made room for 16 additional men this week on White Flag nights. That's when a white flag hung outside means the doors are open because the temperature is dangerously cold.
In Daviess County, officials have declared White Flag nights this week so anyone who needs to get out of the cold can stay St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter, which can house men, women and children.