As rain and wind battered Massachusetts Tuesday night, about a dozen people set up tents in a parking lot in downtown Worcester. The new encampment behind a new temporary emergency homeless shelter was an act of both protest and desperation for people with nowhere else to go.

Worcester city officials opened the 60-bed temporary shelter at a former Registry of Motor Vehicles building in December to help homeless residents escape the cold. But with hundreds of unhoused people in the city, the shelter is already at capacity and some people have no choice but to camp in the parking lot.

David Webb, a homeless advocate who helped set up the encampment in the rain, said the shortage of beds stemmed in part from multiple other shelters in Worcester closing in the past year. He called on the city to do more to guarantee homeless people a safe, warm space this winter.

“The city’s response here is woefully insignificant,” Webb said. “This was entirely preventable.”

In an email, city spokesman Tom Matthews told GBH News that officials are aware of the new encampment in the downtown parking lot and acknowledge the shortage of beds for homeless people across Worcester. The city is working on opening a new family shelter to meet the demand, he said.

“The municipality has been up front about the challenges it faced with the opening of an emergency shelter this winter, and detailed them in a blog here,” Matthews wrote.

According to the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance, Worcester’s homelessness rate has risen by more than 20% each of the last two years, and there are now about 600 homeless families in the city. The increase in homelessness is in part due to surging rents and a shortage of affordable housing.

Housing advocates described homeless people’s daily predicament as a Catch-22: if they camp outside and don’t go to a shelter, police officers often threaten to arrest them. But with shelters full, all they can do is camp outside. Webb said sleeping in tents in the parking lot of the temporary shelter was the only option.

If it wasn’t full, “I would probably [stay at the shelter], with the weather like this and it’s really cold,” said Erin Casoli, one of about six people staying at the new encampment.

Kady Bouchard — who also spent Tuesday night in one of the tents — added she’s tried to navigate Worcester’s shelter shortage by sleeping in public places during the day and then walking around at night.

“That’s how I keep my fingers and toes working,” Bouchard said. “No frostbite.”

In addition to the limited number of beds for homeless people, advocates said they’re upset there aren’t more safe spaces, specifically for women who are homeless. The activists noted that one of Worcester’s only overnight women’s shelters closed last fall due to lack of funding, and no new shelter has opened as a replacement.

Audra Doody, co-executive director of the Worcester-based Safe Exit Initiative — which assists survivors of the sex trade — noted that some homeless women fear staying in shelters where there are also men. Doody said her organization works with women who’ve been sexually assaulted in co-ed shelters.

“A lot of my participants that I've talked to, they're like, ‘Oh, I'd rather find a random hallway somewhere to go climb into or an abandoned vehicle…because I feel safer,’” Doody said.