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Community Shelter Board Gets Help From City Council

As Columbus homeless shelters face record demand, the city of Columbus is stepping up to help. This year the number of people seeking shelter has increased by unprecedented amounts, and the shelter board is running out of money to house them.

The bitter cold has forced the homeless to find a place to stay at night. On Tuesday night, when temperatures plunged to 12 degrees, nearly 800 people sought help from the Community Shelter Board. Many of them were put up in hotels or other temporary housing because area shelters were full.

The Shelter Board said it has spent nearly $200,000 this year on overflow housing. That's compared to a mere $5,000 last year.

The need prompted Columbus City Council President Mike Mentel to propose $300,000 in emergency funding.

"For my tenure on this council, for the past 12 years, I've not seen a scenario where this has happened. We've certainly worked with the shelter board and other social service agencies to address certain needs as were anticipated over three, five, ten month period, etcetera. That was as rapid as I've ever seen," he said.

Community Shelter Board executive director Michelle Heritage-Ward said the number of overflow shelter nights for families, so far this year, has increased more than 3,700 percent.

Heritage-Ward said the emergency money will be used for a variety of services including overflow housing, rapid re-housing and outreach for the homeless. As for whether it will be enough...

"What we know is that the $300,000 is going to make a significant impact on our ability to keep everyone safe and warm and stably housed again," she said.

Mental said he is confident council members will offer full support when he presents the emergency legislation at the upcoming council meeting.