No Common Cold: Shelters are a restive reprieve from frigid temps Friday, December 16, 2005 - Updated: 01:05 AM EST
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 and Timothy R. Homan Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Despite the bone-chilling temperatures that have settled into the region recently, local shelters haven't seen extra traffic in the last few days, regional social service officials said yesterday.

While its locations in Ashland, Framingham and Marlborough remain regularly at capacity, SMOC hasn't seen a spike in people heading to the Common Ground overflow location on Irving Street in Framingham.

Shadows, a women's shelter in Ashland, and Roland's House in Marlborough can accommodate up to 18 people, while Framingham's Turning Point outpost can take in 10 people, said SMOC executive director Jim Cuddy.

"Traffic is high in our locations anyway," he said.  "I hope (the fact there's been no recent surge in people coming to the overflow location) means there aren't many people outside."

Rohey Wadda, who was promoted to SMOC's MetroWest shelter team manager in May, said officials have talked about how to ensure no one sleeps outside as temperatures stay well below freezing.

"I'm not trying to end up in the obituaries," said John Godden, while eating dinner Thursday at the Salvation Army in Framingham.  The 31-year-old homeless man said he tries to sleep at friends houses so he doesn't end up "freezing in the street." "But we have been giving out lots of coats during the day," Triston said.

While Common Ground generally sees about 40 people a night coming in from the cold, it can hold at least double that many, said Wadda.  At times, the shelter has housed more than 100 people, she said.

"We don't turn anybody away," said Wadda.  "If people need a place to stay, we will gladly provide it to them."

Preference in the overflow shelter is given to local people, said Wadda, adding SMOC makes sure people who don't live in its coverage area can stay in shelters outside the region rather than on the street on a frosty evening.

Wadda said it's tough to predict how chilly it has to be before more people come in for a good night's sleep.

"If it gets cold enough for them, they'll come in," she said.

For those with homes, the unseasonably low temperatures are taking their toll on heating systems and, therefore, heating oil companies.

Frank Pescosolido, who heads fuel oil sales at Wayland Oil Company, said his staff is working longer hours to fix "lots of frozen pipes," which are more commonplace in January or February.

"This is an earlier cold spell than usual," said Pescosolido, adding that the mild November meant going from "one extreme to the next."

David Webster, owner at Knight Fuel Company in Hudson, said he's noticed a mix of use levels among customers in the 10 towns it serves.  Perhaps spurred by skyrocketing prices, some have been better about using less fuel, he said.

"It appears some people are conserving very well, while other people are doing what they've always done," said Webster.  "I'm sure everyone is very concerned about the high price of fuel."

Most of Knight's customers are part of a program that caps the per-gallon price at $2.26, said Webster.  That protects them in cases when fuel prices rise quickly and also allows protection if prices drop, he said.

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