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Maine Shelters Get Ready To Accommodate Homeless Seeking To Escape Dangerous Cold

Tom Porter
Maine Public/file
The Preble Street, a resource center for the homeless in Portland, seen in February of 2015.

Homeless shelters around Maine are preparing for an influx of people needing a bed for the night as temperatures plummet to dangerous levels.

"You know these are pretty extreme conditions - we usually shut down the common area, but where it is so cold we're keeping it open today," says Matthew Richardson, an aid worker with Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

Richardson said Wednesday that the 50-bed shelter has been operating at capacity in recent days. The shelter is setting up overflow cots and couches to accommodate a few more, but he says it's distressing to have to turn people away. 

"We can let people stay and get warm for a little while, but overall we have to redirect them to either the hospital or the police department," he says. "It's really unfortunate, but past a certain point that's really all we have for them."

In Portland, Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, says by late Wednesday morning, the shelter was just about packed.

"Our day shelter and soup kitchen- right now we have more than 350 people in our building," Swann says. "So our resource center is as busy as it's ever been and people are pretty anxious and nervous about their safety - and so are we."

The National Weather Service says temperatures fell below zero across Maine Wednesday night.  Forecasters say dangerous wind chills will continue into Thursday morning, ranging from 10 below zero in southern areas, to as much as 40 below in northern Maine.

Temperatures overnight are expected to fall below - or hover near - zero statewide into early next week.