Overwhelming amount of donations to warm up the homeless - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Overwhelming amount of donations to warm up the homeless

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MADISON (WKOW)-- There's no other way to say it, it has been cold this week in Madison. The extreme weather has certainly been hard on Madison's homeless population.

Groups in Madison have been working to help them out, but now they have a new arsenal of donated supplies to help the countless people who are living on the streets. It all started with homeless advocate Tami Miller reached out to a few community leaders and asked them for help.

"Tami sent out a letter out that said these are some of our needs. I took that and I posted it on my Facebook," Metcalfe's owner Tim Metcalfe says.

Metcalfe and two other community leaders recently met homeless advocate Tami Miller when they went undercover as homeless men for three days to better understand the homeless situation in Madison. After their experience they wanted to help and decided to partner with advocacy groups like Miller's Friends of the State Street Family.

"We started to learn more about what the needs were in the community and the challenges they faced," Metcalfe says.

On Saturday night, Metcalfe posted a list of needs on his Facebook page. On Monday, he walked into the Metcalfe's conference room which was filled with donated sleeping bags and clothing. Two days later Land's End contacted him and said they wanted to donate $30,000 worth of Winter outerwear. Walmart also wanted to help by donating a truckload of supplies.

"I'm just overwhelmed by how fast this all got pulled together and how much is here and how many people are going to be helped," homeless advocate Tami Miller says.

The donations came just in the nick of time. Shelters are reaching record levels for this time of year. At Grace Episcopal Church they're seeing between 150 and 165 men each night.

"We're kind of bracing for capacity numbers," men's shelter manager Preston Patterson says.

Every night this week outreach workers with Porchlight have gone up and down the streets in downtown asking anyone they find sleeping outside to come and stay at the shelter. This week alone they've encountered three visitors with pneumonia.

"When you start talking single digits and below, it's just not safe," Patterson says.

But now with hundreds of donated coats, sleeping bags and Winter supplies, the hope is that this cold weather will be a little more bearable for those living on the streets.

Friends of the State Street Family and other local groups who help the homeless will distribute the donated items Thursday night. They plan to hand them out to people on the streets and also stop by each of the shelters in Madison.

Volunteers say they have been collecting items and distributing them for years, but say they've never received this many donations before. It would typically take them months to get even a fraction of what they're seeing right now.

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