The extreme cold has caused schools to close and organizations to cancel activities so people don’t have to leave their homes. For those without a home, shelters have adjusted to care for those who may otherwise face life threatening conditions.
Residents normally check out of the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter in Cedar Rapids at seven A.M., but Executive director Tim Wilson says they allow residents to stay inside when temperatures fall below zero. “I’m surprised sometimes at the number of people who don’t seem to have cold weather coats,” Wilson says. “People will come in here with sort of a medium weight jacket or a couple of sweatshirts, that surprises me a little bit.” Wilson says sometimes his staff can provide coats to clients, but homeless shelters often find themselves in need of winter gear.
The Central Iowa Shelter in Des Moines saw numbers rise as temperatures dipped below zero. Operations Manager, Ken Dohmen, says some of the newest clients had been living in a camp. The shelter has been so crowded, dozens of people sleep on chairs because all beds are taken. “If we can keep people happy and stuff here and not tensed up, then they tend to deal with the time period of being stacked in like this. And that’s our main function then — just to keep them safe and keep them calm,” Dohmen says.
Fifty-four-year-old Richard Johnson has lived in the Cedar Rapids shelter for about two months. Johnson says he does what he can to brave the cold as he looks for work and a place to live during the day. “We try to dress as warm as possible. Sometimes we’ll go Hy-vee and drink coffee until it’s time to go wherever we have to go, or some of us like myself are veterans, so we go to the welcome center or to the outreach center,” Johnson says.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics reports two people were admitted for frostbite treatment Monday. One patient was treated for hypothermia at UnityPoint in Des Moines. But officials said this number was lower than expected, possibly because people are heeding warnings and finding places to stay overnight.