Warming shelters prepare for incoming winter weather

Cities and organizations across the Heartland are working right now to make sure everyone has a warm place to stay over the next couple of days.
Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 6:50 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Many places are opening up their doors for people to stay warm the next couple of days.

Brian Shirrell is the shelter director at Grace Community Church in Mount Vernon, Ill. According to Shirrell, it’s important for shelters to have more than just a warm place to sleep.

“It’s about listening, and sometimes they want to unload a lot of things, and by doing that it just feels like an open door for them,” Shirrell said.

For Shirrell, these warming facilities are personal. Five years ago, he was seeking shelter in one himself.

“I just had always a need to help people, I want to help people, because I’ve been out there, I know the struggles,” Shirrell said.

Kent Jackson has been running this shelter for a few years. He is the Pastor of Family Life Church, also located in Mount Vernon. His church is partnering with Grace Community this year so that they can offer an overnight shelter for those who need a place to go. In years past, he’s seen different numbers of people, but says the need is always there.

“It could range from a smaller number like five to anywhere like thirty to forty people,” Jackson said.

Their community has come together to make sure everyone is taken care of and has their needs met.

“Our goal is to make sure that people are warm, that they are fed, and that they have a place to sleep,” Jackson said.

Many shelters can fill up, especially in extreme weather conditions.

“When the weather gets colder or extremely hot we do see an influx,” Mindy Sanders, the Habitat Lead for DAEOC in Sikeston, Mo. said.

Sometimes they have so much demand they have to turn people away. Sanders said even if they don’t have enough beds, they make sure they do not send them off empty handed.

“If we’re not able to house them we like to send them off with a sleeping bag, a tent, hats, gloves, and a warm meal,” Sanders said.

Grace Community Church and Family Life Church are using their resources to help those in needs in their area. Jackson said it is amazing to see the community come together in that way.

“We couldn’t do that alone, it’s really humbling to be a part of it,” Jackson said.

“It’s hope they can hold onto, and somebody cares enough to listen to them,” Shirrell said.

You can find a list of warming centers in the Heartland here.