Despite subzero temperatures, few sought shelter at warming centers

A truck crosses a snow-covered intersection Monday afternoon on Jackson Street.

A truck crosses a snow-covered intersection Monday afternoon on Jackson Street.

Despite subzero temperatures and closings of other warming centers in Jefferson City, the Salvation Army Center of Hope shelter has not noticed a drastic increase in demand, according to Alonzo Bailey, monitor at the local shelter.

In addition to residents of the 90-day shelter, anyone is allowed to spend the night at the shelter if the outside temperature dips below freezing, Bailey said.

The shelter accommodates up to 40 “90-day residents” and up to six non-residents for overnight stays, he said.

Bailey has also observed some people spending daytime hours at the shelter, often with frigid temperatures as a motivator to seek the warm interior of the building, he said.

“People do come for the temperature,” Bailey said.

While Bailey has not observed an increase in the amount of people in search of shelter due to decreased temperatures, he believes the shelter offers a crucial service for Jefferson City residents, especially the homeless, he said.

“It (the shelter) is important to the community,” he said.

Brenda Doyle, administrator of Senior Centers in Cole County, chose to open neither the Senior Center at the Mall nor the Clarke Senior Center, both of which are designated warming shelters.

Doyle cited the dangers of the precarious footing of an icy parking lot to seniors as her reason for closing both centers for the day.

“The parking lots are slick. We don’t want anybody falling down,” she said.

Doyle does not plan to open either center until later in the week, though she makes the decision on a day-to-day basis, she said.

While the two locations are designated warming centers, Doyle believes the amount of people using either of the two Senior Centers to avoid cold exterior temperatures is quite limited, she said.

Most of the seniors use the Senior Centers for reasons other than warmth because most of them have their own homes, Doyle said.

“To be honest, we’ve never had anybody come to the center for use as a warming station. If it’s cold, people are just going to stay home,” she said.

In spite of the limited demand, Doyle posts a phone number on the doors of both senior centers that seniors may call if they require a place for warmth. If the demand is high, Doyle may choose to open the center, she said.

Bill Farr, emergency management director for Cole County and Jefferson City, echoed the sentiments of Doyle regarding the modest demand for warming shelters in the area.

“We haven’t heard from anyone with any extreme need,” he said.

Though the needs of some may be more extensive, Farr designates the warming shelters in order to meet necessities of most, while also attempting to not hinder the operations of local businesses, he said.

“We try to pick places that are open for extended periods of time. People can come and go every day as they normally do and not be cumbersome to the business,” he said.

Aside from the two Senior Centers and the Salvation Army, Farr cited the library and the Capital Mall as locations at which people can seek refuge from the extreme cold.

In reference to the Capital Mall, Farr said: “There’s places people can shop, chairs they can sit in and just stay warm. We list the mall because it’s open for a long time.”

Because the businesses and public buildings utilized would be open even without a warming shelter designation, the service comes at no cost to the city or county, Farr said.

“We thank those in the community that open their doors for people to come in and get warm,” he said.

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