SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – From highs in the 70s this weekend to freezing temperatures in the forecast, Springfield’s Crisis Cold Weather Shelters are set to open several nights this week to offer many individuals a few hours of relief from the harsh conditions.
One of those hoping to have a warm bed at the men’s shelter at East Sunshine Church of Christ is DeAndre Beckles.
“The crisis cold weather shelters, when they are open, it’s amazing because it gets cold,” Beckles tells OzarksFirst while waiting for the bus at the Veteran’s Coming Home Center in Springfield.
Beckles says he’s been on and off the streets for 13 years. He says freezing temperatures are sometimes a blessing after spending several nights without shelter, providing him the rare opportunity to get a good night’s sleep.
“If we had the rest that we need, we’re more energized, we’re less vulnerable, we got food in our stomach before we go to sleep,” Beckles says. “They give you coffee, they tell you, ‘Hey, go pick a cot, and they give you a pillow and a blanket. You have a roof over your head…it’s another meal.”
There are now four shelters in Springfield that open overnight when the temperature drops below freezing. This year, it totals more than 100 beds available for homeless individuals.
Several churches are also collaborating this year by sharing resources.
Rev. Michelle Scott-Huffman, Minister at First Unitarian Universalist Church, says they are one of four who are helping provide space and supplies.
This year, the groups have also addressed additional barriers that have kept many unsheltered individuals from using crisis cold weather shelters in the past.
“When you talk about people who are coupled, or you talk about pets. We’ve pretty much been full to capacity every night. We’ve had, I think, up to six dogs in a space in a night,” says Rev. Scott-Huffman.
Scott-Huffman says despite collaboration, there are still dozens of volunteers still needed to keep the shelters open throughout the winter.
“It’s really a wonderful thing to be able to help someone in their time of need, for one thing, but also to get to know people and their stories and all of the reasons that people end up on the streets. It helps us to know the ways that we need to kind of fix the systems that are apart of their everyday life,” she adds.
There are various ways you can volunteer, whether it is staying at the shelter overnight, signing up to transport folks’ pets to and from the shelter, to simply donating supplies.
You can find more information and how to get involved by visiting Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ Crisis Cold Weather Shelter webpage.