NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — Western New York's homeless shelters continue to be busy, and on a night as cold as Thursday, folks in Niagara Falls are particularly grateful for Community Missions.
Community Missions has been serving the community for nearly a century, so the needy in Niagara Falls know it's the place to go to get out of the cold on nights like this.
The City of Niagara Falls also encourages the community to visit the Niagara Rescue Gospel Mission, but it's across town and doesn't offer as many services as Community Missions.
"Not having the formal real Code Blue in Niagara County, Community Missions is basically the only warming shelter that's open for nights like this,” said Christian Hoffman, communications and development manager at Community Missions.
It's also one of the only places in the region that doesn't separate men from women and children, so it's flexible to families and offers nearly 50 beds with private bedrooms, thanks to the fact that the shelter adapted two old motels.
"Tonight, as we are many nights, we're filled up,” Hoffman said about Thursday's intense cold.
The bedrooms fill on a first-come, first-serve basis with assistance from the Department of Social Services, but spaces like its cozy lobby — filled with couches, chairs, and a chapel — is open to anyone who walks in, and if you can find a spot, you can stay the night.
Last month, the need for those spots was high.
"December already has hit, and then the past few days, that number is continuing to increase, and I'm certain that we'll see at least a handful here tonight,” Hoffman said.
Community Missions is a donation-based shelter, and cold spells like this stretch resources thin.
The lack of a formal “Code Blue” in Niagara County means it doesn't get any extra funding.
The shelter serves public lunch every day, and the folks who stay overnight get three meals.
Community Missions served more than 100,000 meals in 2017 in a city with only 50,000 people.
"Certainly on a night like this, refuge is a great word probably to use, that people wouldn't have anywhere else to go because, again, we really just don't know of anywhere else where people can come in and stay overnight to get out of the cold,” Hoffman said.
Community Missions is located at 1570 Buffalo Ave. in Niagara Falls. It's open seven days a week and offers other services like substance abuse recovery meetings and a food pantry. Learn more and consider donating here.