GIFTS Men’s Shelter is working to keep homeless people safe when dangerously cold weather sets in—and not just men.
The organization will open a nighttime “extreme weather shelter” at the men’s shelter, 1025 N. Washington St., for the first time this weekend, when wind chills are forecast to drop well below zero.
“Over the next three days, if you guys have somebody in crisis, make sure that you call the shelter because we don’t want anyone sleeping in their cars, and we don’t want anyone on the streets over the next three days. If we can help, please funnel them our way,” said Tim Borowski, resource center supervisor for GIFTS.
Whenever temperatures drop below zero or wind chills are below 15 below zero, the extreme weather shelter will give homeless Rock County residents a place to stay.
Although the shelter normally is open only to men, the extreme weather shelter will accept women, families and children who are Rock County residents and have identification. Those bringing a child must have proof they are the child’s legal guardian.
The new shelter will be in a separate room from the men’s shelter, said GIFTS Executive Director Stephanie Burton.
Those wishing to stay can check in between 8 and 9 p.m. Anyone arriving after 9 p.m. must have a police escort. The emergency shelter will close at 8 a.m.
“It’s the best we can do with the resources that we currently have,” Burton said of the hours.
Personal property won’t be allowed in the shelter so officials can prevent items such as needles and drugs from entering. Sex offenders will not be allowed because of the shelter’s proximity to a school, and those with active warrants won’t be admitted.
Those who use the service will receive a lunch after they arrive as well as breakfast and a list of resources before they leave in the morning.
Marc Perry, interim deputy director of Community Action, said shelter is important for the homeless during the winter months. He said last winter was a good example.
“We absolutely would have lost people on the street,” he said of last year’s polar vortex.
That’s the reason GIFTS is opening its doors starting this weekend, Borowski said.
“If you know someone who needs help, it’s going to be cold,” he said. “Please reach out to the shelter.”