Homeless shelters in New Britain filling up as temperatures drop

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Officials at New Britain's homeless shelters told Eyewitness News that the number of people staying there are higher than last year. However, shelters said they're already packed and don't have any more room.

A man, who went by the name Will, told Eyewitness News that he moved to New Britain four months ago and was visiting the Friendship Service Center on Arch Street for the first time.

Will said he lost his job and became homeless. He told Eyewitness News that he spent many nights sleeping at bus shelters and in stairwells.

"Couple of times I did and it's really hard, cold, you can't sleep at all," Will said.

Before coming to New Britain, he told Eyewitness News that he was an army veteran, who was shot in the leg while serving a year in Iraq.

However, Will was not alone at the Friendship Service Center on Arch Street, which has all of its 52 beds filled.

"Without this place I'd be on the streets, wondering where I'm going to eat, how am I going to stay warm," said a woman named Laura. 

From November to late March, shelter officials open up an overflow shelter in their dining room in which they lay out cots and mats.

Shelter officials at Friendship Service Center said the facility can safely sleep 25 additional folks, but recently they've seen as many as 39 extra people sleeping in chairs, just in order to get off the streets.

Before coming here, Angel told Eyewitness News she spent a year living in a vacant building on High Street.

"It's extremely tough," she said. "Absolutely something needs to be done."

Another shelter in New Britain is located at the Salvation Army, which has 30 beds. City officials sent over extra cots to ease the burden.

Salvation Army shelter officials said they have also seen as many as 39 extra people sleeping in chairs in addition to the 30 people sleeping in beds to avoid from freezing outside.

If the New Britain Health Department issues an extreme weather warning, it could open up a city building to serve as a warming center.

"I understand there are things going on in the world," Angel said. "But if everyone was to focus a little bit here, maybe something could get done."

New Britain Mayor Tim O'Brien told Eyewitness News that he is already planning on meeting with stakeholders like the shelters one week from Friday to see what options they can put on the table as they move forward this winter.

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