Bangor-area organizations that serve the area’s growing homeless population are stepping up services to make sure people have a warm place to stay during an extended dip into frigid temperatures.
The city of Bangor has been working with the Hope House and Bangor Area Homeless Shelter — the two main homeless shelters in the city — and other groups since last Friday to provide more warm places for people who need them, said Rindy Fogler, the city’s community services program manager.
Additionally, city employees and Bangor police have been visiting areas where homeless people have been clustered to make sure they know about available resources and to make sure they have plans to stay out of the cold, she said.
A wind chill advisory is in effect in Bangor and the surrounding areas until mid-morning Tuesday, with the wind chill expected to dip to 30 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service. The cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 15 minutes, the agency said.
In addition to working with the shelters, the city asked two churches with social services for homeless residents to extend the hours of their warming centers. The Union Street Brick Church and the Mansion Church on Center Street will both keep their warming centers open during the day and night, instead of shutting down during the day.
It’s the first time the Mansion Church’s warming center will be open during daytime hours, Pastor Terry Dinkins said.
“We don’t usually do a daytime warming center but I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Martha Schoendorf, who stayed at a homeless encampment near the Hope House shelter during the fall, said she has found somewhere warm to stay during the cold but isn’t optimistic about others.
“I don’t know how people are still doing it,” Schoendorf said. “They’re still out in the cold. I couldn’t do that. It’s too cold.”
Schoendorf started staying in her truck as the weather grew too cold to stay in a tent, but that became too cold as well, she said.
Most people she knows are either in a shelter for the night or, like her, with friends somewhere warm, Schoendorf said.
“I don’t have a choice,” she said. “I’m not staying out in the cold anymore.”
Behind the Hope House, a few clusters of tents were still up on Monday, now nestled into the snow. The tents and the tarps attached to them whistled and smacked against themselves as chilled air blew through the camp.
A man standing by a large brown tent and a car, who declined to be identified, said there were only a few people left in what has become known as the “Tent City.” Most, he said, have found someplace warm.
“I’m staying in the Hope House,” he said. “I found my warm place.”
The beds at both the Hope House and the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter are full, leaving only the warming centers, which don’t have beds, for others to use overnight, Fogler said.
“At this point in time, there is room in the nighttime warming centers, really to accommodate anyone who was outside,” Fogler said.
At the Mansion Church, those using the warming center will be given a hot meal in the evening and breakfast, Dinkins said. Plus, there are bags of food, jackets and boots for people to take with them, he said.