The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter dayroom will be available as an overnight warming center to members of the homeless population looking to get out of the cold starting in mid-December. Credit: Gabor Degre

The Bangor Area Homeless Shelter this winter will offer local members of homeless population refuge from harsh winter nights with a new warming center.

Starting Dec. 16, the shelter will keep its day room open overnight, and offer people who need a break from the cold a place to sit, drink coffee and eat snacks.

The center will stay open every night from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the end of February 2019. It will take in nearly 40 people, in addition to the shelter’s usual 38 overnight guests. The shelter also has five emergency beds in the winter.

“It really is just a place to get people who are unsheltered off the street,” said Boyd Kronholm, the shelter’s executive director. “There are lot of folks around who may not even be interested in a bed, but on those extra cold nights they at least can come in, warm up and get a cup of coffee.”

The shelter will provide nearly 40 chairs along with tables, coffee, snacks and sometimes food, depending on availability, Kronholm said.

The warming center is not intended as a place for homeless people to sleep, Kronholm said. People will not be permitted to bring in blankets or sleeping bags, and everyone who wants to use the center has to be sober, in accordance with the shelter’s policy.

The center’s pilot run is happening with the help of a $50,000 donation from Hannaford Supermarkets. Kronholm said that the center’s primary expense is the staff needed to keep the shelter’s doors open all night through the winter months.

“On nights when there’s storms or it’s extremely cold, people who are unsheltered have been hanging out either in the emergency department waiting rooms or the Bangor Police Department waiting room,” Kronholm said. “So it has appeared to us to be a need for quite some time.”