Bitter cold temps prompt increased community wide efforts to help the most vulnerable

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ST. LOUIS – A rush Tuesday night to protect the most vulnerable as temperatures plummeted.
Heated Metro buses stood waiting along Market and 13th streets, those are just a part of the transit service’s larger efforts to assist anyone needing space to warm up.

“While our drivers’ primary responsibility is getting people to their destinations, they’re also trained to look for people who might need help including unsheltered persons, or children for example that may be left unattended,” said Executive Director of Metro Transit, Jessica Mefford-Miller, “and then we provide them with information about how they should handle a person who requires shelter during this bitterly cold weather.”

Mefford-Miller said the agency is making sure there is additional manpower to meet these extra needs beyond their regularly scheduled service.

“Our equipment is all ready to go and with the polar vortex not offering a lot of precipitation, it makes our job a little bit easier,” she said, “we anticipate being able to keep up with the cold temperatures, we will have small problems like maintaining a cab heat in the vehicle with tomorrow’s bitter cold but we expect that not to interrupt our operations.”

Captain Leon Whitener with the St. Louis City Fire Department spent the evening tracking and organizing a growing list of warming shelters, that he says are working with a task force made up of first responders and the city’s health and human services department.

Whitener said the task force will go out and monitor the health and well-being of the homeless, encouraging them to take advantage of the warming centers.

“It’s a tough situation for us to be in,” said Whitener, “we know that these temperatures are very dangerous and yet a lot of our homeless are comfortable where they are and they don’t understand the challenges with these extremely cold temperatures.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Vitt, Vice President of Vitt Heating and Cooling said the company is making sure people who do have a place of their own don’t go without heat.

Vitt said the company has been handling a high volume of calls for service, a majority of which are particularly for furnaces inside of older homes that aren’t able to keep up with the demand of brutally cold temperatures.

“Get them maintained early,” Vitt said, “so if there are weaknesses in how the system is performing, you can get ahead of it and get them repaired.”

For information on assistance with your heat or utilities contact Heat-Up St. Louis.  For those in need of shelter, here’s a list of warming shelters.

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