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Pandemic presents challenges to warming shelters ahead of freezing temps

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 10:53 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -As the deep freeze sets in, local shelters are working ahead to make sure everyone has a safe space to keep warm, but COVID is presenting challenges.

“We don’t want our brothers and sisters, our neighbors out in this type of weather,” Kimberly Tesch, The Beacon program director said.

Bitter wind and sub-zero temperatures are headed to Wisconsin.

“The main one is frostbite. You know if you’re out there even for just a short period of time, it’s really easy to get that,” she said.

Being outside amid freezing temperatures becomes a danger zone.

“It’s very important for you to be able to access somewhere warm to stay. To be out there all evening like that, that is a huge risk for yourself,” she said.

Tesch normally provides accommodations at The Beacon during severe weather, but cold temps amid covid presents roadblocks.

“In the past, we could allow much more individuals into the building,” she said.

But now, homeless shelters are grappling with covid capacity limits as the cold creeps in.

“We know capacity is an issue right now, and we want to make sure people have some space,” Angela Jones, United Way Dane County income community impact director said.

United Way partnered up with the city of Madison to provide additional spaces. The goal is to make sure no one is turned away.

The Salvation Army will serve as an overflow shelter open for families with kids under 18.

“We don’t want to have folks that are outside. We don’t want to lose anybody because they died of frost or they froze to death,” Jones said.

Organizations and the city partnered up to take a proactive approach, making sure everyone has a safe space to escape the cold.

“Please come. You know we’ll let you in. We’ll get you warmed up. We’ll keep you safe,” Tesch said.

Dial 211 for United Way’s emergency line to find overnight shelter options.

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