While temperatures haven’t dipped below freezing yet this fall, local volunteers are preparing for the city’s emergency overnight cold weather shelter.
This marks the third year for the shelter and the second year it is at the Salvation Army, 1200 E. Broadway Blvd. The shelter will be open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. on days when the wind chill is 20 degrees with snow or ice or when wind chill is 15 degrees with no precipitation. Volunteers plan to begin operation, based on the weather, in November.
“Within recent years before the shelter, the community saw a couple of deaths due to the cold weather in wintertime two years in a row,” said Magen Hudson, service center coordinator at Salvation Army. “One happened to be a volunteer at Salvation Army and Open Door. Besides one being near and dear to our hearts, something was needed in the community and it’s saving lives, we see that in the numbers.”
According to Hudson, an average of six to 10 people stayed at the shelter each night it was open during the 2018-19 season. She said they saw about 25 different people throughout the season, with many becoming regulars.
Seven volunteer groups helped on varying nights last season, with each group determining their own hourly shifts. Hudson said they are hoping to double that amount this year — more groups means fewer nights each group has to help. She said the goal is 15 groups and so far nine have signed up.
“It can be any group,” she said. “Last year a family came and divided up the night. It could be organizations, businesses, another nonprofit, youth groups with supervised adults, a school group on weekends. Anyone is welcome to help out. And even individuals, we can pair them up with a group.”
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Volunteers check people in, distribute bedding and food, and stay at the shelter during the 14-hour night. Due to food handling laws, volunteers cannot cook any food for the clients, but Hudson said last year some groups brought pizza or area organizations donated food left over from fundraisers or events.
To volunteer, contact Chris Traffanstedt at 660-596-3581.
The shelter offers cots, bedding, restrooms, pre-packaged snacks, coffee, and a simple breakfast. The volunteer groups are gathering supplies, but citizens can also drop off donations at the Salvation Army.
Help with transportation is also needed. Hudson said they are looking for a way to transport clients from the Community Cafe to the Salvation Army each night, then from the Salvation Army to the Sedalia Senior Center in the morning; the senior center serves as a daytime warming shelter.
“A lot (of those who stay at the shelter) have to walk and when there’s snow and ice that’s a long walk from the café,” Hudson said.
Hudson said they are working to better publicize when the shelter is open. Printed yard signs that state the shelter will be open that night will be placed around Sedalia at areas like the Community Cafe, Sedalia Senior Center and Salvation Army. Information will also be printed in the Democrat. Area nonprofits will also post information on social media.