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Cooling shelters offer relief from the heat

Cooling shelters offer relief from the heat

June 14th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Jay Williams, an occasional resident at The Salvation Army Center of Hope, helps prepare for the day's lunch crowd Wednesday at the Jefferson Street center. Due to the recent high temperatures, Williams also uses the facility for a cooling station during the heat of the day. The Center of Hope is listed as a local cooling station, along with Missouri River Regional Library and Capital Mall.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

It's not your imagination — Jefferson City practically went directly from winter to summer.

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Local cooling stations began opening their doors in early May, said Christopher White, corps officer at The Salvation Army of Jefferson City.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services provides an interactive map showing all official cooling centers in the state at ogi.oa.mo.gov/DHSS/coolingcenter/index.html.

There, you can find four cooling centers listed in Jefferson City: The Salvation Army of Jefferson City, 927 Jefferson St.; Missouri River Regional Library, 214 Adams St.; Clarke Senior Center, 1310 Linden Drive; and West Point Senior Center, 2701 W. Main St., Suite 101.

Other area cooling centers are in California, Linn and New Bloomfield.

The Salvation Army began offering "hot cots" for the first time last summer, allowing people to spend the night on cots without having to meet all the requirements the organization has for typical shelter residents. In 2017, any night when the temperature was still 90 degrees or above at 8 p.m., it opened for overnight stays on the hot cots.

This year, The Salvation Army is allowing folks to come into its dining hall when the temperature reaches 85 degrees. And it allows them to spend the night if the temperature is 85 degrees or higher at 8 p.m. Days when the temperature reached 85 degrees began occurring early in May, said Hampton Mayson, a lead monitor at the organization's shelter.

"If it reaches 85, we can open the doors to community members who want to come in," he said. "We also get donations of produce and water that people can take with them."

The University of Missouri Extension said April was the second-coldest in Missouri since the National Weather Service began keeping records. Last month was the hottest May the state has ever had.

That led to a flip-flop for people at The Salvation Army, shelter director Brian Vogeler said.

"We still had the facility set up with the cots from winter," White said.

Last year, the hot cots served 100-125 people.

It has provided the hot cots for three to five people a night since early May.

Use of the service is expected to increase, Vogeler said.

"During the summer, people use the Katy Trail to move across the state," White said. "They'll stay (at The Salvation Army) a night or two."

The women's side of the shelter currently is filled, Mayson said. And there aren't a lot of openings on the men's side.

Jay Williams used a hot cot Tuesday night and planned to do the same Wednesday.

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"I stay here off and on," Williams said Wednesday morning. "It's hot out there. If I weren't in here, I'd be in the Capitol building, working as an activist."

Williams said he's been living on the street for about 10 years. He arrived in Jefferson City about five years ago, having come from Georgia.

Jefferson City has more resources for homeless people than some other Midwest communities, he said. He's grateful the city tries to get the word out about what it offers.

The Missouri River Regional Library is open to the public to use as a cooling shelter while its doors are open for business, said Natalie Newville, the marketing manager at the library. The library's hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

The air conditioning at the library is always on, Newville said. The library has comfortable seating. It has water fountains and — with its assortment of newspapers, books, computers and videos — lots of entertainment opportunities.

The facility's door-counter may tell the story, she said.

"More people are coming into the library constantly," Newville said. "Monday especially — because it was super-hot — we saw a lot of people come in."

The National Weather Service forecasts the high for today at 92 degrees. The high Friday and Saturday is expected to reach 97. On Sunday, it could reach 98.