ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - The past few nights have been brutal for anyone walking outside, let alone anyone sleeping outdoors. The city opened its overflow warming shelter Friday night to those in need of a place to hide from the cold.
The 12th and Park Recreation Center in St. Louis prepared to serve the homeless on this chilly night with 100 meals and 75 cots, along with plenty of blankets and a laundry service.
The overflow shelter is open anytime the mercury dips below 20 degrees. This is the second night in a row the shelter has opened, and fifth time this winter. St. Louis Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff explains, “We just want to protect people from really the temperatures that can be life-threatening.”
We spoke to some homeless here who have seen lives threatened on the coldest nights, and have spent nights chilled to the bone themselves. Jerry Bopp says, “There’s no snow but its cold. It happens all the time where your toes are so cold you can’t move them.”
Providing shelter and the extra cots during the winter costs the city about $50,000, but the money spent doesn’t go unappreciated. Denise Dunn explains, “It makes me feel kind of safe and warm, that way I don’t have to be on the streets and worry about anything happening to me, because there’s a lot going on in St. Louis, a lot of people getting robbed, women getting raped, a lot of drugs going on.”
Even though this overflow shelter only offers 75 cots, no one is turned away, and there are plenty of blankets to go around.
Within the past decade, the city’s Human Services Director says the homeless population has been reduced from roughly 1,900 to 1,300.