Homeless shelters prepare for very cold nights

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "It's pretty steady, the numbers are pretty steady every night," said Dan Robinson, Director of the Community Table in Eau Claire.

Every night from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m., the Sojourner House becomes a temporary home for 40 people with no place to sleep.

And with overnight lows set to drop below zero next week, a bed, roof, and blanket turn from a need to a necessity for survival.

"It's just nice to curl up in the winter time to an extra blanket, so we have extra blankets," Robinson said.

Robinson says he is not seeing an uptick in the number of people coming in to the Sojourner House. He says it is steady year-round. After all, it was six months ago we were talking about the other extreme.

"People would come here just for the air conditioning, so we had just as many people here this summer as we do during the winter," he added.

This time of year also has its benefits. The snow has to be shoveled and Robinson says that creates jobs for people looking to work. But when the snow doesn't fall, and you do not have a way to get around, it makes things tougher.

"It gets harder and harder to walk from here to Positive Avenues to walk up to Banbury Place and hang out for the day," he said.

That is where he says a lot of the homeless population comes for the day.

"The average homeless person walks many miles each day," said Rachel Keniston, Director of the Community Table in Eau Claire.

It is a half-mile walk from the Sojourner House to there, even further to job sites. And imagine doing it when the temps are below zero. That is why mittens, boots, and heavy socks are a treasure.

"They are desperate for them and when they are here they love getting them, it makes a huge difference for people," she said.

She says even showers can be an issue since it is a lot harder to find a public washroom or place to clean up when it is cold. All things we take for granted on a cold winter's night.

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