The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 4, 2014

Homeless shelters ready for high use as cold snap hits

JOPLIN, Mo. — With some of the lowest temperatures in years pushing into the area, Joplin homeless shelters and relief organizations were working Saturday to make sure everyone had a place to stay if needed.

The local Red Cross was on standby to set up warming centers if the need arises, spokeswoman Nigel Holderby said Saturday.

“We have been in contact with the Office of Emergency Management in Joplin and we are ready to set up a shelter, but we are waiting on a request from them before we go into action,” Holderby said. “But we are anticipating that need to be requested because of the bitter cold.”

According to a winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service station in Springfield, 2 to 5 inches of snow is expected to fall in the area through Sunday afternoon, but the more serious concern is the cold.

Sunday night, temperatures will drop to near zero and on Monday the high will be in the single digits. Another zero at night is forecast for Monday. Strong north winds are expected to put wind chills at minus 20 to minus 30.

Holderby said the Red Cross has pre-selected sites in the area ready to go if a need is requested.

“Most of the places we have been in contact with have day rooms ready to go, and we can provide hot meals, warm drinks and on-site heating or cots, depending on an overnight need,” she said.

The Salvation Army also will be open to help meet the community’s need. Lt. James Curry said that the Joplin location at 320 E. 8th St. will open early.

“We will be open for meals, and our doors will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. to keep people out of the cold,” Curry said.

The staff at Souls Harbor, 915 S. Main St., also was preparing for an influx of people seeking shelter. Shelter manager Jan Burres said that while it is hard to predict just how many people will show up over the weekend, the best the shelter staff can do is prepare.

“We’re opening up to anyone with our normal guidelines and we will put down extra mattresses,” Burres said. “We have floor space, couches and just about anything we can put people to keep them out of the cold.”

Burres estimates that she could fit 60 people inside the shelter.

“We never have really had to test just how many people we can put inside here, but we will figure it out if it comes to it,” Burres said. “We always have to be prepared for a shelter emergency like this.”

Joplin city officials said Friday they were not planning on opening any warming shelters.

Emergency management director Keith Stammer said the forecast did not appear to threaten ice or wind strong enough to cause electrical power outages.

Dan Pekarek, health department director, said the Joplin Police Department also was checking homeless camps in the area to advise residents of the forecast. He said he had spoken with Souls Harbor and Watered Gardens shelters and that they believed they had the capacity and supplies necessary to take in any homeless residents who wanted to get indoors.

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