Catholic Charities helps poor through cold weather

| January 7, 2014 | 0 Comments
A woman walks in below-zero temperatures though downtown Chicago Jan. 6. The snow and subzero temperatures in some parts of the U.S. have caused churches and charitable agencies to adapt and reach out to help. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

A woman walks in below-zero temperatures though downtown Chicago Jan. 6. The snow and subzero temperatures in some parts of the U.S. have caused churches and charitable agencies to adapt and reach out to help. (CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters)

As intense cold weather in the Midwest neared record low temperatures, local Catholic Charities affiliates were reaching out to those most in need.

“This is . . . the coldest it’s been in quite a while,” said Julia Jenson, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “With the wind chill, it makes it so much colder.”

On the night of Jan. 6, temperatures in the Twin Cities dipped to -21 degrees with wind chills near -45 degrees.

Jenson said the agency’s five shelters, including one for families and another for homeless youth, have remained at capacity, a total of about 1,000. The agency has opened its shelters for a longer period and has had additional staff on hand. On Jan. 6, the agency took a 15-passenger van around Minneapolis to transport people to its Opportunity Center, which provides meals and job skills training, and to the Salvation Army.

“Basically we’re just trying to keep people safe and off the streets and provide help where we can,” Jenson said. “We’ve provided bus tokens so that people can get to one place or another, especially at Dorothy Day, because there aren’t a lot of services in downtown St. Paul.” The agency’s Dorothy Day Center is located in downtown St. Paul and provides hot meals, mental health services and medical care, and serves as a shelter for about 250 people each night.

Catholic Charities’ care coordinators and case managers are checking on the vulnerable elderly to see if they have heat or need help applying for heat assistance. The agency also is coordinating food deliveries through programs like Meals On Wheels.

“We have a lot of these clients who are living at the poverty level,” she said. “We want to check in on them, especially the elderly folks to make sure that they are staying warm and keeping their apartments at the appropriate temperature.”

Chicago and Wisconsin are also suffering from the extreme weather.

“Chicago is experiencing extremely dangerous and cold weather. We are anticipating some of the coldest weather on record,” Kristine Kappel, communications director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA Jan. 6.

“In weather like this our top priority is ensuring that everyone who needs a warm place to stay has someplace to go,” she said.

The National Weather Service said Jan. 5 that temperatures in Chicago could fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill ranging from minus 30 to minus 50.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has added more staff to its outreach program, which does well-being checks, delivers emergency food boxes and helps those in need find temporary shelter or a warming center.

Kappel said the Chicago agency has 227 shelter beds for men, women and families and is now at full capacity. Its mobile outreach program works with shelters around to city to ensure that all needs for shelter are met.

The agency works “very closely” with the City of Chicago and other social service agencies and shelters.

The National Weather Service has warned that wind chill readings that are so cold that they would be “life-threatening” would be widespread across Wisconsin.

Justine Lodl, director of communications for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., said everyone is vulnerable in such weather conditions.

“Catholic Charities is helping with any housing related emergencies by assisting in getting persons connected to resources within the communities we serve,” she told CNA.

The Green Bay Catholic Charities affiliate has a temporary wintertime shelter with 84 beds. The gym at St. Norbert College or several churches can help host any overflow.

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Category: Featured, Local News