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New London's Covenant Shelter adds beds for 'no freeze' policy

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published November 26. 2013 4:00AM
Extra capacity to be available through April

New London - The Covenant Shelter is adding five beds to its 35-bed facility for the winter months to help ease overcrowding at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.

"We wanted to do our part to help out the community," said Jodi Craig-Atkinson, executive director of the Covenant Shelter.

The Board of Directors approved the temporary expansion in October, she said. The extra beds will be available through April.

The Jay Street shelter, which accommodates 35 men, women and families, will add an additional three beds for single men and two for single women, Craig-Atkinson said.

The shelter, which has been open for 30 years, is approved for up to 50 beds.

"If it goes well, we'll probably add a few more beds," she said.

The shelter is in the process of buying new bunk beds and is seeking donations of sheets, blankets, pillows and warm clothing for men and women.

Craig-Atkinson said the Covenant Shelter is at capacity with a waiting list.

The added beds are in response to a "no freeze" policy initiated by those in the region who work with the homeless. They have pledged to not leave anyone outside when the temperatures dip below freezing.

Catherine Zall, executive director of the Homeless Hospitality Center, which can accommodate 50 people a night, praised the Covenant Shelter's decision.

"They're trying to take in a few more people and that's fantastic," she said. "They're truly doing their part to help."

The hospitality center, which moved earlier this month from St. James Episcopal Church on Huntington Street to a newly renovated space at the former Sts. Peter and Paul Polish National Church about half a mile away on State Pier Road, has been taking in about 10 extra people each night, Zall said.

The two shelters, as well as organizations in Norwich, are coordinating efforts to make sure everyone has a place to stay, Zall said.

"We're into overflow I'm afraid," she said Monday. "But we're doing our best to provide space for everyone."

Even those who are not allowed in the shelter during warm weather because they have violated shelter rules are allowed to stay in the community room overnight when it is freezing outside, Zall said.

"We don't want someone to die outside" because they failed to save a portion of their income while staying at the shelter, she said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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How to help

What: Covenant Shelter

Where: 42 Jay St., New London

To contact: (860) 443-0537 ext. 101

Need: sheets, blankets, pillows and warm clothes for men and women, including coats, hats, gloves and long underwear.

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