Shelters prepare for more people during cold weather

There TMs nothing like eating a hot soup to help keep warm on a cold night.

That's what Rio Grande Valley Loaves and Fishes Kitchen Manager Richard Gonzalez, prepared for dinner Tuesday, as temperatures continued to dip near freezing.

Executive Director Bill Reagan said a dip in temperatures means at least a 20 percent increase in people seeking a warm place to stay.

"This is the first really cold one of the season and we're prepared, Reagan said. We're expecting more people, particularly on the family side - the women and children's side - but also on the men's side."

Reagan said the shelter has had an increase in demand for services, food and shelter stays through the end of October this year - compared to the entire year of 2010.

He blames the struggling economy for it.

Workers said it's not just the regulars seeking help these days

"I TMve seen more families coming by, with more little kids and more families, Gonzalez said. So I think it's getting tougher out there for them, so they're coming in."

Whoever seeks shelter, Reagan said they're prepared.

"If it's really cold and really bad, we do have cots we can set up and we'll be happy to do that, Reagan said. We have fresh scrubs for them to wear at night, we have shower facilities for them, (and) we do, of course, offer dinner."

Most importantly, Reagan said, is for people to seek help and not try to tough-out the dangerous conditions.

"We really want people who are vulnerable to come to us, Reagan said. If you don TMt have heat in your home, if you're in trouble, if you know someone on the street, send them to us."