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Another round of negative wind chills in the Ozarks has citizens in need returning to the Salvation Army’s Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter in Springfield. The special service has already been open longer and seen more visitors than during all of last year’s cold season.
Since November, the shelter has been open 34 days, 10 more than the previous year. 376 unduplicated individuals have used the service. That’s an additional 145 people.
Jeff Smith is the director of social services at the Salvation Army.
“Anytime the National Weather Service issues a prediction of a wind chill 14 degrees or below we activate our Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter. Again that’s through the National Weather Service. And so far the National Weather Service has had us open a lot, again because the wind chills have been so low,” Smith said.
Smith recalls opening the shelter for 47 days a few years ago; however fewer people stayed the night compared to this year.
At times in the past couple of weeks, the shelter has served more than 100 people at once.
“When we see this extreme cold, there are people that would maybe normally stay out, but decided that really they can’t make it in this extreme cold. So of course they do what we want them to do and they come and seek shelter instead of succumbing to the cold.”
But Smith notes that the cold weather shelter does come at a cost. So with the high demand comes a greater need for volunteers and donations to keep the shelter open. He added that the Salvation Army is currently around $100,000 short of their annual Tree of Lights campaign.
When open, check-in for the Extreme Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, located at the agency’s main location at Kansas and Chestnut Expressway, is around 7 p.m., Smith says. You can learn more about the shelter or how to help by calling 862-5509.