With record cold and outages, more people seeking help at local warming centers

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When winter’s fury rages, people in need seek warmth.

Cold weather opened the doors to metro warming centers, especially when the mercury’s mark sinks to dangerous depths. So now, warming centers across the metro are busy, and many of the people asking for help are doing so for the first time.

At Cross-Lines Community Outreach in Kansas City, Kansas, Rob Santel’s staff has seen a big uptick in traffic during the past seven days when, at one point, the temperature bottomed out at nine-below. That was Monday night when Santell, the center’s program director, saw clients who had previously refused to come off the streets.

“We’ve seen the frostbite,” Santel said. “We’ve seen multiple people who’ve come to the warming center and the cold weather shelter who have had frostbite. Luckily, we’ve been able to get some people hospitalized.”

Santel also told FOX4 he knew of at least one person who, sadly, died due to overexposure in Monday night’s frigid conditions. Santel said his warming center has expanded its hours to keep more people from those deadly conditions.

“A few of them have shared with us they’re staying in homes where they’re unable to keep it warm or they don’t have utilities on,” Santel said. 

Across the state line in Missouri, business has also picked up at the Roger Sermon Center in Independence. It’s one of three warming venues being operated by the city. 

“We don’t want anyone to be out in the cold on days like this,” Jodi Wynn, who leads Sermon Center programming, said. 

Wynn said clients can come to her facility for warming during the daytime. Customers are also calling with concerns about burst pipes at their homes and, in other cases, with questions as to where they can obtain safe lodging for the night.

“We assess them, and if need be, we have vouchers through one of our community partners that they can have a room for the night at a local hotel,” Wynn said.

Most any indoor spot would be an improvement to what the metro is seeing outdoors. Surprisingly, neither warming center reported an increase in traffic due to ongoing power outages. Both of them are open during daytime hours.

The Scott Eike Warming Center inside Kansas City’s Bartle Hall is open overnight, but closes at 8 a.m. That’s when most of Kansas City’s community centers open as warming shelters.

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