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Norwalk Shelter Sees Increased Need As Temperatures Drop

The Open Door Shelter, located at 4 Merritt Street in South Norwalk, has seen an increased attendance as temperatures have dropped this week.
The Open Door Shelter, located at 4 Merritt Street in South Norwalk, has seen an increased attendance as temperatures have dropped this week. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. – With temperatures dropping, the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk has seen an increase in the number of people looking for a warm place to sleep. And though the shelter may be reaching its capacity, the staff will make sure that nobody gets turned away.

“If anybody shows up, we’re going to make sure they’re warm and safe, and then figure out what to do next,” said Jeannette Archer-Simons, executive director of the Open Door Shelter on Merritt Street in South Norwalk. “Nobody’s going to be out in this cold.”

The shelter normally has room for about 95 people, with overflow room for an additional 20 beyond the normal capacity in times of extreme cold. A total of 16 people were sleeping on overflow mats Tuesday night, an increase from 10 at the start of the week, Archer-Simons said.

If someone comes to the shelter after it has reached its overflow capacity, staffers will make sure that they are helped. The person can wait inside while the staff works with other shelters to find a spot, she said. Once another shelter is identified, Open Door will make sure the person has transportation to make it there safely.

Open Door Shelter also works to help those who choose to stay out in the cold.

“Our staff routinely goes to the places where we know the chronically homeless sleep. We do our best to keep track of them and to build a relationship with them, so that if they choose to stay out in the cold, we know they’re OK,” Archer-Simons said. She encourages people to reach out if they are concerned about someone sleeping out in the cold.

“Let us know their location, we will go check on them and make sure they’re safe,” she said.

The shelter is always in need of supplies to help its clients. Archer-Simons encouraged residents who want to help to organized canned food drives in their offices and communities to help the hundreds of people who rely on the shelter for food every month. She also said they welcome donations of blankets, mats, warm winter coats, shoes, boots, adult gloves and hats to help protect Norwalk’s most needy from the harsh winter weather.

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