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Homeless in the cold

What do you do when you have no where to go in these frigid temperatures? At last check, there were more than 600 homeless people in the tri-county area. And while all of them want to find somewhere warm to go when it gets cold, it's not always possible. "You could die in weather like this if you don't have the right stuff to cover up with," says Ross, a 23 year old homeless man. He is spending his first night in the Good Shepherd Center. On nights like this, when the temperature drops below freezing, he'll do whatever he can to stay warm. "An abandoned building, on the street, under a bridge, outside. It's scary, it's no fun. No fun at all," he says. Billy has been homeless off and on since 1996, and knows all too well what it's like to struggle through a cold winter night. "If you couldn't get in here, you have camps and stuff all over town," says Billy. "I'd kick a door in. I'm not going to stand out there and freeze to death." "It's absolutely frustrating and a little disheartening, says Katrina Knight, Executive Director of the Good Shepherd Center. The center is one of a handful of shelters where people can stay overnight in Wilmington. when the center created a night shelter with 118 beds to accommodate more homeless people, she didn't expect it to be filled nearly every night of the year. And when it's especially cold, some homeless people who might otherwise seek shelter in the woods or their cars place an even greater burden on the center. Still, they do anything they can to accommodate more people when the temperature plummets. "We routinely add a cot here or a mat there in order to not have to turn individuals away," says Knight. She says they've never had to turn away a family with small children. She points to the lack of affordable housing in the greater cape fear area as the main reason why so many are homeless. She says many of the people who live at Good Shepherd have jobs, but still can't afford to rent or buy a home in this area.

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