Shelters Rapidly Fill as Frigid Temps Grip Chicago

Bitter Chicago temps forced hundreds of city residents into facilities and shelters Saturday night, and with snow expected Sunday, many facilities are preparing for even more people to seek shelter.

The Pacific Garden Mission on Chicago's Near South Side said more than 800 people sought shelter in their facility Saturday night as temps dropped into the single digits with wind chills even colder.

Although the shelter said there are still beds available, the facility said the number marked an increase from the average number of beds taken in one night.

"They start to increase during these times when the cold weather comes about in the city and we have to be prepared for that each night," said Pacific Garden Mission Supervisor Renard Green.

The facility offers residents a bed and three meals a day and said no one is turned away.

"It's a blessing to be able to come here," said resident Christopher Booker.

Another center on the South Side, the Garfield Center at 10 S. Kedzie Ave., filled up Saturday night.

The city's dept of family and support services says turnout at shelters and warming centers has been "very good," but they are not at capacity.

The city is urging residents to call 311 and report homeless people or those in need of warmth during the frigid blast and Chicago Catholic Charities will find the nearest warming center for callers.

The organization said it will also provide transportation to warming centers.

The city is reminding people earlier than usual this to make sure homes have adequate heat and to check on those who might be in need.

Those who don’t have a warm place to stay say they are grateful to the warming centers in the city.

In preparation for an influx of residents seeking shelter, officials said the city also has six senior facilities that will also function as warming centers. Police stations may also open during cold times for those in need.

For 13 year old Kimberly Taylor, the warming centers are a “blessing.”

“My ears are cold I’m shaking,” she said.

Her mother Demesha Logan says the family can’t run from the cold and Saturday’s unseasonably frigid weather made them that much more grateful to have the warming center on South Kedzie.

“The shelters are full,” Logan said. “They want us to reside here. At least we’re not out walking around with kids. It’s a blessing to be here.”

Obed Morales and his three kids, who are staying at the warming center until their heater at home gets repaired, said they too are grateful.

“It’s really cold,” he said. “Thank God we have somewhere to go in the cold weather, somewhere we can take advantage of. The cold weather is so bad it's dangerous and I have kids.”

Saturday’s highs were in the teens, marking some of the coldest air to move into Chicago this season. The day started with wind chills below zero and only warmed into the single digits during the afternoon.

But for the thousands of people along Michigan Avenue Saturday, the cold weather wasn’t enough to keep them from shopping.

“It’s freezing cold, my toes are freezing,” said shopper Jacob Mobley. “I should have dressed a little warmer.. .You have to you have to get Christmas shopping.”

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