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Warming centers take on extreme temperatures

Local warming centers are working hard to keep people safe in sub-zero temperatures.

Posted: Jan. 2, 2018 5:24 AM
Updated: Jan. 2, 2018 7:34 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. -  Warming centers in the area are keeping doors open for people who need it. 

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Dorothy Day Hospitality House usually has a eligibility rule where guests who stay for two weeks cannot come back for 60 days. But when temperatures are this low, people are always welcome despite when they last stayed at the house. 

"We started what we call 'cold weather nights.' And any night that the temperatures are going to be cold we open the free beds up for anyone who may need a bed. And it doesn't make a difference how long they've been away from the house. If they just checked out yesterday, they're eligible today for the cold weather night," Charlie Kirby, Dorothy Day Hospitatliy House President, said. 

The Salvation Army's warming center in Rochester is seeing an average of 25 guests per night. Alex Hurlebaus is the warming center's coordinator. He says the warming center is transforming from a helpful resource to possibly a life-changing one. 

"It is unsafe out there. It is not acceptable for anybody to be outside for any amount of time. You know, you step outside and your hands are exposed for 10 seconds, it's pretty terrible," he said. 

He said they are making efforts to accommodate the extreme temperatures. 

"When I'm here I let guests in. So 5 o' clock instead of 7 o' clock. We've had volunteers who've hung out a little longer in the morning to make sure people can stay," he said. "We'd like to do more in that respect but again we're working with the volunteers that we have and what they're able to do."

The warming center has been able to increase their volunteer base, now seeing about 150 volunteers. The community has also been helping by providing warm meals and donating clothes. But there is still a need. 

"Long term goal being open five months straight out of the year. We're getting closer to having a volunteer base that could support that," Hurlebaus. 

People can get involved in volunteering by heading to the Dorothy Day Hospitality House website or calling the Salvation Army's office and asking to reach Alex Hurlebaus. 

"If you've ever wanted to see your time, your effort...if you've ever wanted to immediately see that that made a difference, there is no better volunteer opporunity than this," Hurlebaus said. "Just making sure someone has a warm place to be, a warm meal to eat. You are ensuring that just by being here, just by existing as a volunteer six hours of your night."

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