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Upcoming hazardous weather has Rescue Mission preparing for increased shelter demand

Beds covered in pink sheets sit in a room and are each separated by walls as barriers for privacy.
Steve Eckhardt
Syracuse Rescue Mission
Beds are set up at the Syracuse Rescue Mission for referrals to sleep in.

Wind and rain are on their way to the region this week. Heavy showers and up to 50 mph winds are expected starting Wednesday.

The harsh weather has the Syracuse Rescue Mission bracing for an influx to their emergency homeless shelter. Chief Development Officer Tori Shires said the 192-bed facility downtown helps them provide one of the biggest needs to the region’s homeless community.

"Really help keeping people out of the cold Central New York winters," Shires said. "So whether that includes staying at our shelter or day center, or our street outreach team going to meet with them, we really try and work one on one with individuals to make sure they have the necessities to make it through a Syracuse winter."

Shires said the shelter is about 85% full and will likely reach capacity by February. Last year nearly 2,000 people relied on emergency shelters in Onondaga County, according to the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York. The total is down from 2019, when more than 3,200 people turned to emergency shelters. But now, Shires said the need is going back up.

"Through the pandemic over the last two years, our numbers in both shelter and food service actually decreased," Shires said. "There was the eviction moratorium, which meant more people were staying housed. There were added benefits, and so folks needed food less. But now that a lot of those benefits have gone away We have seen our numbers in shelter spiked back up to pre-pandemic levels."

Shires said the public can support their mission by donating essential items to help people survive the bitter Central New York winters.

“One of the biggest areas that community members often step forth and help us out with is winter gear," Shires said. "So, we're always in need of hats, gloves, gently used coats or new coats. Same with boots, items like hand warmers, and even things you don't think of like chapstick this time of year, really makes a difference."

Shires said there are drop-off sites around the region, but a direct donation at a drive is the best way to give to a person in need. An ongoing collection site at Lavish Salon in North Syracuse will last until Dec. 15.

A person puts their stuff away in the Syracuse Rescue Mission shelter.
Steve Eckhardt
Syracuse Rescue Mission
A resident puts their stuff away at the Syracuse Rescue Mission shelter.

Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.
John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.