Brutal cold has local shelter expecting large crowds - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Brutal cold has local shelter expecting large crowds

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MADISON, Wisconsin (WKOW) -- Big crowds were expected Monday night at the Porchlight Inc. drop-in shelter downtown due to the brutally cold temperatures.

"I'm expecting between 160 and 180 (people)," said Porchlight director of operations Brad Hinkfuss.

Hinkfuss said that's roughly 20 to 40 people more than his organization typically sees between its three, downtown shelters each night.

Space is limited.

"We literally don't have enough mats and space for that many people," Hinkfuss said. "You get that many people together in cramped quarters and things just get tight."

Food at the shelter is provided by volunteers. Hinkfuss said it's important that Porchlight keep in contact with those cooking food to make sure enough is prepared.

Preston Patterson, the manager of the drop-in shelter, said donations of supplies, like blankets and towels, are up this year compared to last winter. He said that could be because the cold snaps we've seen this winter have drawn attention to the problem of Madison's homeless.

But Patterson added the shelter never turns down donations.

"Blankets, towels and things people can survive with during the daytime when it's cold -- like socks, gloves, hats and coats," are always needed, Patterson said.

The drop-in shelter typically closes at 7:30 a.m. daily after opening at 5 p.m. each evening. But Hinkfuss said it will remain open until 9 a.m. during the cold snap. Those inside often walk to the nearby library or state capitol buildings to stay warm, he said.

Hinkfuss added those who have previously been banned from the shelter for bad behavior will be granted a second chance and allowed to enter during the very cold weather.

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