Seeking shelter from the cold: homeless turn to shelters in sub-zero temperatures

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Even for Colorado, this week’s temperatures have been on the extreme side.

The weather roller coaster, which crested with Sunday’s 73-degree record high in Colorado Springs and plunged to Tuesday night’s expected low of minus 2 degrees, led homeless shelters to brace for extra people.

Springs Rescue Mission, the city’s largest shelter with 450 emergency overnight beds, a 65-unit apartment complex for chronically homeless, an addiction recovery residential program for up to 40 men and a 12-unit sober living complex, activated its “Severe Weather Programming Plan” on Monday, when snow and temperatures started to fall, said Travis Williams, chief development officer.

The protocol means the Christian-based campus at 5 W. Las Vegas St., south of downtown Colorado Springs, extends hours to “ensure guests’ time in the elements are minimal,” he said.

On such days, the shelter opens earlier than usual, and the organization’s Day and Resource Center stays open longer. Clients also can eat lunch on site, in addition to the normal breakfast and dinner meals.

A total of 329 men and women stayed overnight on Monday, up by 14 from the previous night, Williams said. And about 200 people used the Day and Resource Center on Tuesday, he said.

The shelter hit a record of 475 overnight stays on Oct. 10.

At the Richard Hanifen Center warming shelter, a program of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, about 20 people came in from the cold between 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, said spokeswoman Rochelle Schlortt.

“Particularly on these snowy, cold days, our clients need somewhere to go when it’s freezing outside,” she said. “People can get warm and dry off and wait for the meal.”

The warming shelter closes when the adjacent Marian House Soup Kitchen opens for service at 10:30 a.m. 

The shelter began in September 2016 to fill a gap in the community and now opens its doors on mornings whenever the temperature is below 32 degrees, Schlortt said. Between 20 and 40 people who may be sleeping in tents or cars normally use the shelter.

Shelter bed counts that local homeless providers tally showed five empty beds out of 20 on Monday night at The Place, a shelter for teens up to age 21.

The Salvation Army’s R.J. Montgomery New Hope Center had 41 empty spaces out of 210 available beds for men, women and children available on Friday night, the last time the log was updated.