Dangerously Low Temperatures Bringing High Numbers to Area Shelters

DES MOINES, Iowa -- In the early hours on Sunday, Des Moines dropped down to two degrees, making this the coldest morning we've seen since mid February of last year.

When numbers dip that low on our thermometers, shelters see their numbers sky rocket.

“We have 150 beds and about 40 to 50 people without beds, laying their heads on tables and trying to get a good night's rest on chairs. We are really full right now,” Kendrew Panyanouvong, Central Iowa Services and Shelter (CISS) marketing manager said.

As of Thursday, the shelter hit capacity and on Saturday night. CISS had over 200 people in their facility.

“There’s some serious danger for folks out on the streets. So we let those folks in our shelter because of the weather,” Panyanouvong said.

When the wind chill is 10 degrees or below, the shelter operates in its weather amnesty status, going over capacity and letting individuals stay who may not normally be allowed. While they want everyone to be safe, it can be stressful.

“We operate on a lean staff, and having over 200 folks here in the facility, things can get pretty hectic around here,” Panyanouvong said.

That's why the city of Des Moines works with public businesses and facilities to offer additional warming centers for people to find temporary relief from the cold.

“Today is pretty bracing, so anybody who does need to seek shelter from the cold we welcome them to the library,” Theresa Weeks said.

All of Des Moines' six public libraries are considered warming centers. They are not staffed to provide services, but do help shelters when living quarters get tight.

“Especially during the day, during our hours, if they need a change of scenery, if they need a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle; we provide that, certainly,” Weeks said.

It's looking like this extreme cold is not going anywhere, with highs in the single digits for this upcoming work week and Friday early morning to drop to below 10 degrees before wind chill.

Over the past few days, CISS received so many donated clothes and blankets they had to turn some away. At this time, if you want to help, they say they always need volunteers.

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