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Warming Centers Staying Busy with Dangerous Frigid Temps

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: January 09, 2020 02:33 PM

Hypothermia is a serious concern with the frigid temperatures. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 75 cold related deaths last winter. The number of deaths was 36 percent higher than average over the past few winters.

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Those at high risk of hypothermia and death are often times older adults, people under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the homeless.

Warming centers in the Twin Ports like the Ruth House in Superior are making a difference to those in dire need of shelter.

The Twin Ports has seen dangerous below zero temperatures since the start of December. A safe and warm shelter is crucial during the winter season, but some people don't have that option.

"We have seen people with a little bit of frostbite or people that aren't normally used to wearing warmer gear," said Christyna Foster, the manager for the Ruth House located on 632 Grand Avenue.

The warming center has been housing 10 to 12 people on average overnight, and 66-year-old David Zeledon, who goes by "Doc" is one of them.

"When it's that cold outside, if you don't have someplace to go, if you don't have a way to stay warm, you're going to die," said Zeledon.

Someone from the Ruth House saw him struggling to find shelter on New Year's Eve and gave him a helping hand.

"There was a gentleman sitting there who saw me getting upset and freaking out and said, do you need a place to stay? And I said, yea, that's exactly what I need," said Zeledon.

Helping others is something Foster is passionate about. She personally has seen the dangers of being exposed to the cold.

"I have a family member that died due to cold exposure and addiction and so for me, doing this helps alleviate some of that grief and that pain. It’s something I’ll continue doing for as long as possible," said Foster.

Foster said the Ruth House offers a welcoming, warm and safe space, where those who walk through the doors there are given food, warm clothes, and support.

"This was exactly what I needed, and it was made available, by an odd coincidence, it's like god reached out. That's kind of what it feels like," said Zeledon.

The Ruth House accepts donations and always need help from volunteers. Right now, they're in need of winter outerwear and blankets.

The DTA is doing their part to help too. They're offering free rides to the Ruth House.

"The timing is amazing as well because the weather is awfully cold right now. It's frigid and so we have a lot more people that previously had been able to survive outside that now are desperately needing shelter," said Foster.

The DTA says they will provide free service to those needing a ride to the Ruth House on the first and last trips seven days a week on Route 16, between the Duluth Transit Center and Superior until further notice.

This new DTA service is in addition to the free rides offered to the two Duluth-based warming centers at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and CHUM.

Ruth House is working to open another warming center in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on 24th Avenue West called Esther House but need volunteers to help.

If you’re interested in helping and volunteering at Esther House, call 715-392-2833 or email Ruthhousetwinports@gmail.com.

Ruth House's warming center runs from 8 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. They ask people to sign in between 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Ruth House's normal business hours are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

CHUM’s drop in center is open 24 as a warming center all night.

If you’re interested in helping and volunteering at CHUM, call 218-720-6521 or email ealtman@chumduluth.org.

For more information on winter safety tips, click here.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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