Missoula's homeless shelter, the Poverello Center, has been full to capacity during this spate of below-zero nights and brutal wind chill conditions.

Executive Director Erin Fowler said on Wednesday, February 5, that the center has been housing and feeding a number far exceeding the capacity of the shelter to accommodate.

"We've been seeing high numbers of people staying in the shelter, really, since the last cold spell in December," Fowler said. "We've definitely increased in the last few days. Tuesday night we slept 111 people, which is well over 40 more than our official capacity. Lots of folks are sleeping on the floor and in hallways, and just grabbing every little extra ounce of space that we have. We never turn anyone away. Even if we don't have room to sleep, at least we want everyone to come in and get warm. Our homeless outreach teams have been out to the camps and encouraging them to come in. Really, our main goal is to keep everyone alive, because the reality is that anyone sleeping outside on a night like this...their life is in jeopardy."

Fowler says those that sleep at the shelter are also fed at the shelter.

"We're so blessed to have so many generous donors in the community, that we've had enough to go around," Fowler said. "Getting a hot meal is one of the most important parts of the day for anyone living outdoors during this time of year. While we have enough food, we're incredibly low on supplies. We desperately need more toilet paper and queen-sized blankets, but the community really comes out full force, and so we're very grateful."

Fowler said the normal rules of leaving the shelter in the morning after spending the night are suspended for the cold snap.

"When the weather's this cold, we don't require anyone to leave," Fowler said. "We want them to stay indoors and be safe," she said.

Fowler asks anyone who want to bring donations and supplies to the center to please do so between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., but they'll be happy to accept donations anytime.

The temperature on Wednesday night is expected to dip down to -15.

Executive Director of the Poverello Center Erin Fowler



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