Homeless Utahns encouraged to seek shelter in cold weather

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Bitter cold temperatures can be dangerous for Utah's homeless population. The Road Home emergency shelter is encouraging homeless Utahns to come inside this week.

The organization says it's surprised more people didn't seek shelter during Tuesday's storm. Operations Director James Woolf says a few may have decided it was too cold and windy to walk to the Road Home.

He says the shelter has plenty of room.

"We do have a number of people that camp, but with these type of temperatures it's best they come in for the next couple of days. If they want to go back to camping, that's fine," he said.

Currently about 350 single men and 70 women are staying at the Road Home. Woolf expected the numbers to go up with colder temperatures this week, but he says the count has remained steady.

The Road Home also has room for families at its two locations in Salt Lake and Midvale. Nearly 100 families are staying there, with space for more.

The shelter also carries supplies for those in need.

"We have disaster blankets and we can give someone a coat if they need a coat, gloves, hat, socks, anything they need. All they have to do is ask," Woolf said.

The Road Home says the number of homeless people this year is slightly lower than last year. Volunteers of America-Utah says some 700 homeless people live on the streets in Salt Lake County. Most are adult males.

According to the Utah Comprehensive Report of Homelessness for 2010, 82 percent of homeless Utahns live along the Wasatch Front, mostly in Salt Lake and Weber counties. About 5 percent of the state's homeless population remains homeless for lengthy periods, the report said.


Story by Anne Forester with contributions from Marjorie Cortez .

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