Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - KGVO News spoke with Missoula Poverello Center Director Jill Bonny on Monday in anticipation of the possibly historic winter storm bearing down on western Montana on Christmas week.

Bonny Said the Johnson Street Warming Shelter has bumped up its sleeping capacity to cope with the severe cold snap, much like what occurred in November.

“As you know, the temperature dropped pretty quickly last month also, and I feel like that really helped us prepare for the winter and for the higher numbers,” said Bonny. “We just saw a big increase of people needing shelter in November, and so as a result of that we bumped up our staffing and also made some additional spaces for people to be able to sleep in the building. That was supplemented by some additional city and county funding, which we really appreciate. But I believe with that extra room, we're going to be able to provide shelter for anybody who needs it this week.”

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Bonny provided the increased capacity at the Johnson Street Shelter to help protect houseless individuals during the Christmas week cold snap.

“Previously, we were saying that our cap for sleeping was 135 individuals, but we could actually have 150 in the building,” she said. “However, now with the increased staffing and increased spaces, we can sleep up to 165 individuals and can have 180 in the building. So that's an increase of about 30 individuals. In the last couple of days, we're seeing numbers in the 130’s up to 140, so we still have a little bit of ways we can go before we hit that cap.”

Bonny addressed the fact that the TSOS is still a tent facility, and may not be appropriate temporary housing during this cold snap where temperatures could drop to nearly -20 degrees.

“They're just needing an alternate location during the bitter cold, because you can imagine heating something like a wool tent and it would be nearly impossible with those kinds of temperatures so I believe this is just a temporary solution and we're always happy to partner with Hope Rescue Mission at the TSOS and have done this before,” she said. “There was a night I think last year where there was some pretty bad winter weather and some high winds that knocked down some tents and we definitely made room at the Johnson Street Shelter for the (TSOS) residents.”

KGVO asked Bonny how our listeners and website readers can help her agency during this winter storm.

“Continue to donate to the Pov,” she said. “That includes writing a check, but it's also warm gloves and blankets and socks and hats and things like that. We, in addition to the shelter, have our homeless outreach team that is really providing services to people who don't come into shelter for whatever reason, and they're just going to need additional supplies during this time.”

Click here to find out more about the Johnson Street Warming Shelter and how the Poverello Center is assisting the homeless population.

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