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Salvation Army Center, other shelters expect crowds to grow amid arctic blast

With forecasters predicting snow, ice and temperatures in single digits this week, Charlotte’s already overcrowded emergency shelter for families braced for a rush of desperate women and children seeking to get out of the cold.

Officials with Salvation Army Center of Hope said they decided to open up additional space for beds and floor mats in the building, including the shelter’s Boys & Girls Club center.

“With the extreme cold conditions forecast to last most of the week ... the Salvation Army is implementing a ‘no turn-away’ policy to ensure so that all women and women with children can find refuge from the extreme cold,” said Shelley Henderson of the Salvation Army. “In addition, the shelter will operate under its extreme-weather plan, which allows residents to stay inside during the day to escape the cold temperatures. On a typical day, residents are required to leave the shelter during the day.”

The center is requesting donations of new or gently used sheets (twin preferred), pillowcases, blankets, washcloths, towels and new pillows. Donations may be dropped off at the Salvation Army Center of Hope, 534 Spratt St., between 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The shelter – which has about 255 beds – has been over capacity for at least three years, as the number of families losing their homes worsened in the economic downturn. Cold weather adds to the crowds, in cases where families were sleeping outdoors or in their cars, shelter officials said.

In recent weeks, Salvation Army officials said, they have seen as many as 400 people a night, with more them 200 of them children.

Victory Christian Center has a standing offer to take an additional 31 women from the shelter in cases where the crowds become too much. The homeless also can turn to Room in the Inn, an Urban Ministry Center winter program that places homeless people in churches, dorms and other facilities for the night.

The Center of Hope expects to begin work in the next few weeks on a 64-bed expansion that calls for renovating an unused third floor of the building on Spratt Street.

Charlotte’s largest larger shelter for men, the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, has enough capacity to handle any influx of men that results from the cold spell.