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KCMO warming shelters open doors for homeless population during winter storm

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Posted at 6:30 PM, Jan 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-01 23:57:58-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Freezing temperatures can become a matter of safety for the homeless population. Kansas City leaders as well as local nonprofit organizations are making sure no one gets left out in the cold during the first winter storm of the year.

“We start putting mats in our chapel to make more space. Also, all day long our chapel is open as a day-space anytime it’s under 32 degrees,” said Eric Burger, executive director of Shelter KC.

The shelter usually takes in 55 men during normal operations but expanded its capacity to 75 men to meet the need. Across its multiple shelters, Shelter KC housed about 100 people Friday night. Visitors are also served free lunch during weather emergencies.

“I just talked to a guy, and I said, ‘Man, it's cold out there,’" Burger said. "And his first response is, 'It is, but it’s warm in here. Thank you.’ That’s pretty neat."

The shelter also works with the city’s emergency management to make sure no one is turned away.

“So if we’re full, we can make sure somebody then goes to another shelter that has space and make sure it’s a coordinated effort,” Burger said.

Burger says homelessness is a complex issue. For some, it is a temporary crisis, and for others, it could mean issues with addiction and mental illness. His goal is to provide guests with basic necessities and life tools to get back on their feet.

It is something Alain Nunez calls a blessing.

“It has been very helpful because when I first got here, I didn’t have any money,” Nunez said. “Having a home is, it’s a necessity. People need it.”

John Baccala, Kansas City, Missouri, city housing and community development spokesperson, says as a part of KCMO's new Extreme Weather Plan, three warming centers were staffed on Saturday despite the holiday. Doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Gregg/Klice, Westport Roanoke and Garrison community centers.

The centers open when the daytime high is below 32 degrees or the overnight low is less than 20 degrees.

“They are not gonna be served meals, they are not gonna be given a place to sleep. They are given a place to go in and stay warm,” Baccala said.

The city is also partnering with City Union Mission to create a donation drop-off Monday through Saturday for the homeless.

For more information on the city’s Extreme Weather Plan, click here.