A homeless shelter in York Region is seeing a staggering increase in the number of people using their facility this winter.

The Inn from the Cold Program has seen a 50 per cent increase in visit when compared to last year – something that has never happened before.

“We are operating at about 95 to 100 per cent occupancy every night,” says Ann Watson, executive director. “Our numbers are significantly higher and we have had to turn people away on some pretty cold nights.”

Brian Lascelles is homeless and knows all too well the importance the shelter has.

“When you have literally have nowhere to go, well to sum it up easily, it's life or death.”

Officials from York Region know there are many issues behind the rising numbers, including a lack of affordable housing.

“We know that there can be mental health involved, but family breakdown, things change, job loss, a lot of financial stress, because of the high cost of housing,” says Adelina Urbanski, commissioner of community and health services for York Region. “One thing leads to another and then a family or an individual can find themselves homeless.”

Getting to a shelter in such a large community can also be tricky. Bus routes are being reviewed to see if changes might help.

Until last year there were only shelters in the northern part of the region. A new facility in Richmond Hill will help, but more are needed.