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Homeless shelters reaching maximum capacity

A homeless person's sleeping arrangement in Harrisonburg. This is the situation some may find themselves in if a homeless shelter reaches maximum capacity.
A homeless person's sleeping arrangement in Harrisonburg. This is the situation some may find themselves in if a homeless shelter reaches maximum capacity.(WHSV)
Published: Jan. 13, 2020 at 5:32 PM EST
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Homeless people may find themselves left in the cold if shelters reach maximum capacity. Shelters must follow a set of rules and restrictions given by the fire department.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County reported 132 homeless individuals last year and have several shelters in the area, like Open Doors, Salvation Army and Mercy House.

But when low-barrier shelters, like Open Doors, reach capacity, some homeless people may have no other safe option.

"We're also working with Open Doors and these other organizations to see if there is a plan in place or is there a plan we can put in place to deal with a situation where [shelters] may be over capacity and that is something we continue to look at," Mike Parks, Director of Communications in Harrisonburg, said.

Open Doors has a maximum capacity of 40 guests staying overnight at one of their shelter locations, and that limit is decided and enforced by the Rockingham County Fire Department.

"We have to ensure that occupancy loads and limits are established and maintained, so we do do inspections periodically at those Open Doors shelters to make sure that it's safe," Joe Mullens, Rockingham County Deputy Fire Chief, said.

Harrisonburg communications manager Mike Parks said City Hall is working to have a solution for when Open Doors closes for the season in April. In the long term, he said they are looking to bring more affordable housing to Harrisonburg while working with other local organizations to get more people out of shelters.

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