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Emergency Homeless Shelter Opens for Winter

Tonight at six, Charlotte's Emergency Winter Shelter opens to handle the overflow from other shelters in the city. There's room for nearly 300 homeless men, but officials are already saying that won't be enough. Homeless shelters in Mecklenburg County only have enough space for about half of the estimated five-thousand homeless people in the region. During the summer, sleeping outdoors is an option, but freezing temperatures make that more dangerous in the winter, which is why the Charlotte Emergency Winter Shelter was created. It opens tonight and will stay open through April. But even its 280 beds are routinely full, says shelter spokesperson Trish Hobson. "We're expecting another big increase this winter based on what other shelters are experiencing," says Hobson. "And we've never had this happen before: We actually had some guys come by the shelter during the summer and say 'Can we stay here?'" The emergency shelter is for men only and Hobson says it had a 30-percent increase in overnight stays last year. Charlotte's other shelters for women and children have seen a similar increase, which officials attribute to the sagging economy and a shortage of affordable housing. Homeless women and children will be taken care of this winter by a network of churches that open their meeting halls as temporary shelters. That program - called "Room In the Inn" - starts in November.