Columbus Shelters Fill As Temperature Dives

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Ice forms on Scioto River in downtown Columbus as temperatures fall below zero
Ice forms on Scioto River in downtown Columbus as temperatures fall below zero

Central Ohioans are bracing for another frigid day on Tuesday- one that has started even colder than yesterday. Schools have closed for a second consecutive day. Ohio State University is closed again. The bitter cold has paralyzed much of the area and increased demand for emergency shelter.

Few people walked Columbus streets Monday. A downtown construction site on High Street was silent, no workers. A city utility worker near Ohio and Livingston warmed himself off and on inside his truck. A block away, at the Saint John Holy Rosary Kitchen Larry Hergins warmed himself with a hot noonday meal.

“I’ve go to put a lot of layers on for one thing. It’s very, very chilly out there,” says Hergins.

Hergins was spending extra time inside the kitchen. He usually spends his day walking to several different places that offer free food. But not on Monday.

“Usually, man, I just go to different places to eat but it’s so cold I can’t make it today,” says Hergins. “I don’t really have no good hat on or nothing. I can’t make it today.”

Administrator Carol Trowbridge-Neubauer says warm hats are too scarce on bitterly cold days among people who come to the eastside Community Kitchen.

“I was amazed at how many people came in that didn’t have hats and gloves on in this weather,” says Trowbridge-Neubauer.

Trowbridge-Neubauer estimates about a third of the kitchen’s regulars are are chronically homeless. In sub-zero temperatures, they are most at risk.

The Community Shelter Board says on any given night 950 people in Columbus lack shelter.

Spokeswoman Sara Hoken says the agency will do what’s necessary to meet increased demand for shelter.

“Many of our shelters have been able to add some extra beds so we can accomodate everyone who needs a safe place to stay out of the cold,” says Hoken.

Hoken says a dozen churches through-out the city have also agreed to house individuals and families during daylight hours when temperatures sink into single digits or below zero.

When bitter cold strikes, teams of social workers fan out to convince the homeless to seek shelter. Maryhaven President Paul Coleman says some individuals choose to stay out.

“Temperature does effect the willingness of some individuals to come in,” says Coleman. “But, surprisingly and sadly what we find here at Maryhaven are there are some individuals who’s mental and addictive illness are so severe that they will not come in even in brutally cold temperatures.

Coleman says when someone insists on staying out in the cold, the agency seeks police help.

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