Newark opens winter shelter for residents to get out of cold

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NEWARK -

Newark residents have a new place to stay warm this winter after a new shelter opened in the city.

The city opened the winter shelter just two weeks before temperatures in New Jersey plunged to dangerous lows.  City officials say that no one will be turned away.

Erick Odom says that Thursday was his fifth day of having a bed to sleep in. He came to the shelter after sleeping in Newark Penn Station. He says that he has also had to sleep outside in the bitter-cold temperatures.

MORE: New Jersey Weather CenterCDC on frostbite | Extended Interview with Resident

“Sometimes you feel like, ‘Am I going to make it?’ and then somehow people come to your aid and come to your help,” he says.

There are about 100 people currently staying at the shelter. Newark officials say that they may open more floor as temperatures drop.

“Last night two women came in with six children, and five guys gave up their beds and made sure they were OK,” Odom says. “We were still allowed to stay in here because of the cold.”

Newark health officials say that the shelter opened just in time, as temperatures this cold can be deadly.

“Being able to see our most vulnerable off the streets, out of the cold and into warmth has to be the greatest accomplishment,” says Dr. Mark Wade.

The shelter is able to house 480 people. Residents are also able to access supportive services and make plans for assistance and permanent housing. A New Jersey Transit bus that operates out of Newark Penn Station runs at 11 p.m. to bring homeless residents to the shelter.

Officials say that they are also focused on the safety of the residents.

“We don’t allow people who are intoxicated. If we find drugs we might ask that person to leave. If we need an escort we’ll do that,” says Homeless Services director Vickie Donaldson. “But we haven’t had any of those problems so far.”

The shelter is funded by the city budget and federal grant money. There is enough funding to run the shelter through March. City officials say that they hope to work on a deal with local businesses and developers to keep it open longer.

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