Homeless Shelters Respond to Dangerously Cold Weather

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While it may be unpleasant to leave home and drive to work in cold winter weather, we have it easy.

For the hundreds of homeless people in our community, the bitter cold poses a deadly threat

Frostbite can threaten exposed skin in just 5-10 minutes in the predicted subzero temperatures, and though dressing warm can delay hypothermia, if you’re outside long enough in the cold, you’re at risk.

These conditions pose a unique danger to homeless people, who have to spend lots of time outside – even when staying with overnight shelters like DuPage PADS or Hesed House.

“Most of our guests that stay here transportation is either on foot or by bike. To be exposed to the temperatures and with snow it takes a lot longer to walk places so it’s a very dangerous time,” said Carolyn Sprawka, division director of Hesed House’s PADS Emergency Shelter.

Hesed House responds to the cold by opening the doors to their shelter 24/7 so their clients don’t have to risk going outside.

DuPage PADS doesn’t have a permanent shelter like Hesed House does, so they respond by extending their overnight hours, giving rides to clients who need them, and by opening their client services building as a warming center.

“We are working with our volunteers to try and extend the hours in the morning and in the evening to welcome people in earlier,” said Carol Simler, president and CEO of DuPage PADS.

The goal is to minimize the amount of time anybody has to spend out in the dangerous cold.

Both organizations rely on volunteers to keep things running – and thankfully, they don’t mind braving the cold to help out.

“We’ve seen our volunteers just be heroic because they know they’re bringing dinner, for example, for the folks that are staying here. So they make every effort to overcome any obstacles they may be facing just to get here to help serve the people,” said Sprawka.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.