City to keep warming centers open despite being over budget

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- With dangerous sub-zero wind chills moving back into the St. Louis area, city officials find themselves scrambling to further fund an overflow shelter for the homeless.

The community center at Tucker and Park costs about $1000 per night to keep open for 125 homeless people.  Twenty days were budgeted for this winter, and because of the unusual amount of cold and snow, the overflow spot has already been open for 27 days.

“It’s what keeps me up at night,” Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff said.  “I really do worry so much about the wellbeing of people here in the city.  Particularly our most vulnerable citizens, being homeless people.”

But Siedhoff says even with a good six weeks left in the cold weather season, he has marching orders not to leave anyone at risk.  The overflow shelter will be open.

“Mayor Slay has made it very clear.  This is a necessity.  We will find the money.  We will find it some place.  We have to.  It’s a responsibility the city has.”

The looming wind chills in the -20 degree range has area hospitals gearing up as well.

“We will see a potential spike of patients who come to the emergency department because of those exposures,” Barnes-Jewish ER Dr. Brian Froelke said.

He points out that when wind chills get to the point they’re expected to reach overnight and in the morning, danger can come in just a matter of minutes.

“The risk is the possibility of frostbite,” he said.  “You have somewhere between 10 minutes and a half hour depending on how cold it is before you’re at risk of frostbite.  You want to dress in layers to help prevent that.  Cover up any exposed areas.”

Parents are urged to keep an extra eye on children heading to the bus stop or walking to school in the morning.  One St. Louis County school administrator tells Fox 2 it is far less likely a weather day will be declared if cold weather is the only factor.  In other words, the kids will likely be headed to class in most areas.



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