Shelter opens doors 24/7 to serve homeless in frigid conditions - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Shelter opens doors 24/7 to serve homeless in frigid conditions

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The life-threatening cold is driving up demand for shelter space in Madison and social service agencies are trying to meet the need.    

The Salvation Army Emergency Family Shelter typically opens up daily at 5:00 p.m. and allows families and single women to stay there until 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

But due to the dangerous wind chills, the shelter is staying open around the clock through Wednesday morning.

Morgan Ernest is staying there to get out of the cold.  She got more than she bargained for when walking back from her job at the Kohl Center late Sunday night.

"By the time I got here, like, I couldn't feel my thighs," said Ernest.  "It was very cold and I knew it was going to drop down but I didn't expect it to be that bad."

Morgan was off of work on Monday and didn't have to go back outside, thanks to the Salvation Army's decision.

"Even though it seems like the simplest thing, there are a lot of places that don't provide that," said Ernest.  "So, its very important, cuz its cold outside and these are deathly cold temperatures."

"This hasn't been done in quite some time in winter," said Karen Potnek, Shelter Coordinator for the Salvation Army.  "We have had, for the hot summers, you know, we've opened up, but yeah this hasn't been done for a very, very long time at the shelter."

Few know just how cold it truly is right now like Shari Grueneberg and Jim Follat.  They spent eight hours outside Monday, picking up discarded Christmas trees for the City of Madison Streets Division.

"You gotta really dress good," said Follat.  "Dress in layers and stuff, wear long underwear, sweatshirts, layers, gloves."

"The more you move the better you're off," said Grueneberg.  "You stand still like this, your feet get cold and stuff."

Its a reminder of just how treacherous the current conditions are and how much people without a stable residence need an extra hand.

"Now is the time when you should start thinking smart," said Ernest.  "Its more about keeping warm, and your safety, versus where you're at and what you're doing."

The Salvation Army Emergency Shelter is for families and single women only.  But Porchlight has an emergency men's shelter downtown as well, which opens every night at 5:00 p.m.  You can find out more about that here.

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