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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – With temperatures expected to drop into the single digits overnight, volunteers spent the evening making sure the homeless had a warm place to sleep.

Winter only officially started Saturday, but the overflow shelter at the 12th and Park Rec Center, which opens when it’s below 20 degrees outside, has already been open a dozen times this year. It’s a challenge for the organizations trying to help, and of course, for the homeless.

Mitchel Anderson was one of many who came to take advantage of the warm place to sleep.  “It’s no joke,” he says, “it’s hard. St. Louis has very harsh weather, and sometimes people can be cruel.”

But having a warm meal and warm place to sleep helps ease their hardships, at least for the time being. Anderson adds, “It’s a blessing to have somewhere to go.  I’m striving to improve my condition, and it’s good to have someone support you in doing that.”

Pulling off nights like these are a team effort, starting with St. Louis Winter Outreach volunteers who round up the homeless and shuttle them to shelters around the city, including this one.

St. Louis Winter Outreach volunteer Jean Allman says, “I want them not on the street. And these days, we’re seeing also a lot of older folks, and we’re seeing kids, so it seems more urgent than ever. And the winter this year looks like it’s going to be a really tough one. So that’s why we’re out.”

Once they get to this shelter, it’s all about providing meals and setting up cots for the roughly 100 people who show up.  It’s a life-saving effort that will continue on cold winter nights, no matter how many there will ultimately be.

St. Louis Dept. of Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff explains, “We budgeted for 21 days this winter. Well, we’re already into 12, and we’re just in December, and the winter has really just begun.  So I am concerned about that, but we’ll find the funding. We have to.”