Michael recalled spending Sunday night under a Wichita bridge. "I'm don't want to say," he said when asked which bridge. "But it was warm."
Monday, the 50-year-old was at the Warming Souls Winter Overflow Shelter, which already is filling beds faster than expected.
Organizers expected 15 or 20 people Sunday, the shelter's opening night for the year at St. Paul's United Methodist Church. There were 36.
"And the weather was not that cold last night," Sandy Swank, director of Inter-Faith Ministries, said Monday.
The man who identified himself as Michael said his friends call him George because he boasts of being a descendant of George Washington and England's King George. He showed up at the overflow shelter Monday night but said he was prepared if it didn't have room.
"I've got this sleeping bag good for 10-to-20 below, so I'm good," he said.
The shelter will be open through the end of March, rotating on a monthly basis among a handful of downtown churches.
"We've been getting a lot of calls," Swank said. "Everyone was looking for a place to stay. People were asking when it was going to be open."
The shelter averaged 72 people a night last winter, and that number jumped to 130 on especially cold nights, said Janis Cox, co-chairwoman of Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness.
Nobody knows what the numbers will be like this winter, given the high unemployment and sluggish local economy. But the trends are troubling, local service providers for the poor and homeless say.
"The last 10 months, our numbers have just been incredible," said Wendy Glick, director of the Lord's Diner, which offers a free meal to anyone who wants one every night. "We're seeing a lot more women, a lot more families with children."
The Warming Souls shelter has designated separate spaces for single men, women and families.
Last year, 80 women used the overflow shelter — more than 20 percent of the 373 people who spent at least one night. All but four of those had been homeless for at least a year.
"We were shocked that there were that many women," Cox said. "It says to me that there are a lot of women out there who probably are taking refuge in situations ... that aren't ideal."
Six of the 36 people at the shelter Sunday night were women, Swank said.
Those using the shelter get tickets at Inter-Faith Inn, 320 E. Central, during the day, and drivers bring people to the shelter during the evening.**
Swank said the ticket keeps people from lining up all day waiting for the shelter to open.
Michael said he spends his day at a seniors center then goes to Open Door around 7 p.m. to catch a ride to the shelter.
Once there, he received a hot dog, chips, beans and a brownie — a dinner prepared by members of Woodland United Methodist Church.
"We're doing this two dates this month, tonight and at the end of the month," said Randy Roths, a church member. "We do it every year."
Roths said he tries to spend the evening talking to those who come to the shelter, getting to know them.
"I work the crowd," he said. "I try to be more than a nobody handing them something."
Robert Briggs, 37, had been collecting plastic bottles and cups during the day and hoped to fill them with orange drink in one dispenser at the shelter.
"That way, I have something to drink all day tomorrow," he said as he spread a red, white and blue crocheted blanket over one of 47 cots in the church gymnasium.
Working through various agencies and programs, Cox said, Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness was able to place 166 homeless people in permanent housing this year.
"It's hard to say whether there's other people coming along to replace them" at the overflow shelter, Cox said. "We're just real curious about what our numbers are going to be like this year."
Long-range weather forecasts vary, but most suggest it will be a fairly typical winter for Wichita, with slightly warmer-than-normal temperatures.
But even temperatures in the 40s can prove dangerous for the homeless if it's damp with a brisk wind, Swank said.
"People don't realize the long-term effects of it," she said. "People say, 'It's the same people over and over again, isn't it?' No, actually it isn't. After four or five years, they eventually die because it's very hard physically on them to be out."
Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness raised private funding for the shelter.
Along with St. Paul's, churches providing space for the overflow shelter will be First Metropolitan Community Church, First United Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal and St. Mary's Cathedral.
The shelter will be at the community room of Inter-Faith Ministries at the end of March.
The location and address corrects information that was incorrect in the original version of this story, published Tuesday. Return to story.