With frigid weather ahead, warming centers across metro prepare for influx of people in need

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The incoming blast of cold weather will force many people without a home to seek warmth.

Numerous warming centers in the Kansas City metro are ready for crowds this weekend, some of whom have never needed assistance in the past. Temperatures are expected to dip below 20 degrees this weekend, and by Tuesday, forecasts call for overnight lows at or below zero.

Kansas City, Missouri, has 10 community centers across the city, all of which serve as warming centers. People in need can take refuge from winter’s wrath there during business hours.

Those facilities don’t offer overnight lodging, but a temporary setup at Battle Hall does, according to a city spokesperson.

“During these cold times, there is a warm, dry, safe space for people in Kansas City,” Chris Hernandez, Kansas City spokesman, said. “That’s a place where people can go and have a warm, dry place to stay with volunteers who will help you with services.”

The city of Independence also plans to open its warming centers this Saturday

Comfortable conditions are also available in Wyandotte County, where the Unified Government operates three warming centers of its own, in addition to the warming center at Cross-Lines Community Outreach. Rob Santel, the nonprofit’s director of programs, opened a space of relief in the sanctuary at the former St. James Catholic Church in January.

Santel said he expects higher numbers of people coming from the streets and into the warmth as the weekend chill arrives.

“Individuals that we’ve tried to pull into shelter are likely going to be more receptive to seeking shelter when the temperatures drop as low as they’re going to,” Santel said Thursday. “Individuals who have come off the streets, who’ve not had the proper clothes they’ve needed, the hats, the gloves, the warm coats.”

The pandemic has complicated the premise of warming centers and homeless shelters. Facilities in Missouri and Kansas require that clients take all the usual pandemic protocols. 

Hernandez said Kansas City leaders have invested $8 million in assisting the homeless, which is four times higher than the normal total of $1.5 million.

“Look at the number of people who have lost jobs. People who never would have thought at this time last year, they’d be seeking a warm place, but that’s where we are,” Hernandez said.

And while they try to get back on their feet, these places offer them a warm solution for the short run.

FOX4 also reached out to other metro cities, including Leavenworth, Liberty, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit, but our calls for information weren’t returned Thursday.

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