Shelters bring awareness to homelessness as temperatures drop

"Having emergency shelter saves lives. It saves lives certainly in the bitter cold temperatures."

FARGO-MOORHEAD – As the temperatures continue to drop, the homeless may be faced with tougher challenges.

With frigid temperatures sweeping in over the next week, two local organizations are doing their best to provide relief to those seeking shelter from the cold.

“We’re very aware of the temperatures that are coming. The kind of wind chills we’re expecting aren’t compatible with human survival if people are outside. So we’re just doing everything that we can to maximize overflow sleeping so that people who don’t have any place else to go are able to come in and get in out of the cold,” CEO of Churches United Pastor Sue Koesterman said.

With COVID concerns, shelters have had to minimize the amount of people they let in which means more people are faced with the below freezing temperatures.

“We’ve got space here in the shelter building for 70 and that’s what we’ve set as our number because of coronavirus and then in our overflow we’ve got space for an additional 33 men in house. We’re pretty much full every night, but we’ve haven’t had a cold snap all winter like we’re going to see over the next period of time,” New Life Center Executive Director Rob Swiers said.

Swiers says one way staff at the New Life Center ensure people stay warm is they pay close attention to those that come and go.

“Some of the things we talk about when it gets real cold like this is to be mindful of if you see a guest outside or leaving who doesn’t have a hat or gloves, make sure you connect with them and ask them and ask them,” Swiers said.

Both organizations say awareness is essential to survival.

“Having emergency shelter saves lives. It saves lives certainly in the bitter cold temperatures, but that’s true year round as well. So we just want to raise awareness of the fact that we have neighbors in this community who are experiencing poverty and homelessness and they need safe warm shelter,” Koesterman said.

If someone comes into the shelter after being exposed to the frigid temperatures, help is available.

“We have a nurse that works onsite as well and she is connecting with the guys if we do have someone that comes in with frostbite on their feet or on their hands we’ll get them down to the nurse as quick as possible and we get those medical needs addressed,” Swiers said.

On Giving Hearts Day next week, the New Life Center staff and volunteers will sleep outdoors to bring awareness to homelessness within our community.

Categories: Community