Few beds are available as cold nights make warm, dry place to sleep more than a luxury

Shelters for the homeless are near capacity across Sonoma County, a cause for concern as chilly temperatures drive more people to seek a warm place to bed down for the night.

In Santa Rosa, several shelters operated by Catholic Charities report few vacancies.

That includes the Family Support Center on A Street, the largest shelter for homeless families between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oregon border.

City and county contracts with Catholic Charities allow the organization to provide a set amount of shelter services year round. But during the winter months, when freezing temperatures or floods are forecast, city and county officials allow the shelters to add up to 15 percent more bed spaces.

So far, shelter officials have not made that request.

"So far we've been able to juggle everyone in and out," said Nick Baker, who runs Catholic Charities' Homeless Services Center in Santa Rosa. "It seems to get worse when it's raining."

Shelter officials say the worsening economy, and not the weather, explains the current demand for services.

In Petaluma, the Committee on the Shelterless, or COTS, reports an 8 percent increase in the number of people seeking support from this time last year.

That includes a 300 percent increase in the number of seniors looking for help, said Mike Johnson, the agency's assistant executive director.

"That's a scary trend," he said.

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