Big Changes at The Warming Shelter
Winter is coming. And with that comes the dangers of subzero weather... That is something Sioux City's homeless population knows too well.
"We found that for many years, the police or the sheriff or EMS would find somewhere between 2 and 4 people that during the wintertime would freeze to death. They would find them in alleys or under bridges because there was no place for them to go," said Joe Twidwell, Board Member of the Warming Shelter.
That's how the Warming Shelter was born. Last year, a survey was done to see what residents would like to see this year.
"And essentially we took, the warming shelter board, took that report and we have implemented virtually everyone of their suggestions. Hopefully this year we will have a cleaner, safer, place that is more responsive to the needs of the people that don't have shelter," said Twidwell.
Thanks to substantial donations, big improvements were made to the shelter over the summer... They have repaired sheetrock, painted walls and floors, installed new lights, added commercial washers and dryers, and upgraded water heaters and furnaces. They have also constructed a community room for socializing and a smoking area.
Twidwell says, "It's responsive to their needs and yet still will help us a little bit with more of the structure and that was one of the recommendations that the residents had."
More bunk beds were donated, so that means more residents.
"The capacity is going to be at 116 and so during the coldest parts of the year we usually run full. Sometimes we have more people asking for shelter than we have space, even here," said Twidwell.
But housing 116 people comes at a cost.
Twidwell says, "The cost last year, for operating the shelter averaged about 24,000 dollars a month. we have two attendants on duty ...Then we've got utilities and maintenance and supplies. But we have no staff there's no warming shelter staff, we're all volunteers to do all the rest of the things."
"The shelter runs strictly on donations, free will offerings, we don't take any government money what so ever. So in order for it to be successful and continue to operate, we need donations from the private citizens as well as the businesses in this community," says Police Chief Doug Young.
Donations keep the warming shelter open for the winter, but Siouxland leaders keep it running.
"People ask who is the warming shelter, well it's made up of individuals in the community. They're the Chief of Police is on our board, the Sheriff is on our board, we have a representative from Mercy Medical Center, Mental health center for Siouxland, have a couple ministers, we have just individuals from the community, And everybody brings the same passion to the table, all saying 'how do we make sure nobody freezes to death in our community'," says Twidwell.
While all donations of food are accepted at the warming shelter, the best items are the ones that can be eaten on the go, like ramen noodles in a cup, and other soups in a cup, as well as anything you can fit in your child's lunchbox, are great things to donate to the warming shelter.
Sheriff Dave Drew talks about certain things to donate, "Shampoo products maybe things that come in small packs that you could give them. Toothpaste, things that would be kind of uh, to help them for some days, and that's the ultimate goal. And obviously money drives a number of things."
"We have good supporters that do this on a regular basis, but we could use a whole lot more," says Pastor Paul Johnston.
The Warming Shelter has even created an easy way to donate...
Josh Lebowich says, "The easiest way is to go to facebook.com, search the warming shelter. There's going to be a link where it's giong to say donate now. When you click the donate now link, it will actually go right to paypal. You can set up a monthly donation, a weekly donation, or just a one time donation."
"We're open from November 1st to April 30th of the year. The name The Warming shelter really captures it because we're not open during the summertime, not that the needs of the homeless people go away, but during the wintertime when its subzero, people die. And so our prime objective is to make sure that no one ever freezes to death in Sioux City and the Sioux City area," says Twidwell.
Not a single soul was lost last year due to cold thanks to the Warming Shelter. Let's keep that streak going.