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Warming shelter helps fight bitter cold

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It’s over bitterly cold nights like Thursday’s when the Sedalia Warming Shelter is most appreciated.

“The wind chill was definitely below zero,” said Kirk Martin with the Warming Shelter. “We open up at 15 degrees real-feel wind-chill with clear skies, or if we have a 50% or better forecasted precipitation, we open up at 30 degrees, those are our trigger points.”

Located in the basement of St. Vincent de Paul St. Patrick Parish, 415 E. Fourth St., the Warming Shelter has been busy for the past few nights.

“Fourteen or 15 have been here for the last couple days,” Martin said. “The colder it gets the more people show up, and if there's snow on the ground there could be even more.”

Cold daytime temperatures are keeping clients seeking respite from the chill, and keeping the shelter doors open as well.

“Due to the daytime temperatures not getting out of that criterion we stay open 24 hours during those periods, otherwise we're just over night,” Martin said. “This basement works pretty decent because it's got the different cubicle areas. We could put a couple people in each cubicle, if we get up much over 20, I think we had 23 last year on one of our top days, that was pretty packed, so if we go anything over that we would be in trouble.”

Martin made sure to thank St. Vincent de Paul Parish for the use of their basement as the Warming Shelter’s location, and for other organizations that volunteer to help.

“We have the Rotary and 10 churches that take turns manning the shelter, all volunteers,” Martin said. “Open Door provides a lot of the meals, Community Cafe the evening meal, and any groceries that we might need the Open Door provides. When we're open 24 hours, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided. Lunch is provided by Open Door kitchen and the supper’s provided by Community Cafe. We go and get it and bring it here.”

Cliff McBride is a volunteer with First Methodist Church and covers two-person shifts overseeing the shelter and signing-in guests. Reasons he saw on Thursday’s sign-in sheet included “heat not working at home.”

“You've got the ability to interact, some of the people here actually want to tell their story,” McBride said. “We had people here last night that were here because they lost heat at their house.”

Losing heat in a home is what Martin calls house-camping. He remembers a family last year that spent a week in a cold house before coming into the shelter.

“When they walked in, they looked like they walked out of the polar north,” Martin said. “I mean they had icicles literally hanging off their eyebrows and rosy-red cheeks. We got them in here, got them some hot soup and hot chocolate and since they had little ones, we gave them a private room. We didn't see them for 24 hours.”

Those in from hours or even days in the elements frequently sleep for extended periods, Warming Shelter volunteers said.

“The reason we do this is to do our part trying to prevent deaths from exposure,” Martin said. “I mean, if you know if we could save a life we save the life, right?”

As the weather can change quickly, decisions to open the Warming Shelter are made that day. The problem is then getting to word out to potential clients that they have a place to go.

“We even try to get phone numbers if they're available so that we could text them and let them know that the shelter is open,” Martin said. “So we're looking for ways and methods to better get the message out on a short term notice.”

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