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Shelter Sought From Bitter Cold

December 5, 2013, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Shelter Sought From Bitter Cold

The temperatures are now dipping below zero, and that means any extended period outside can be considered dangerous. One organization in Sioux Falls hopes to keep some of the city's homeless population out of the cold as much as possible.

"It's not about feeling good, it's about doing what we ought to do for one another," Union Gospel Mission executive director Fran Stenberg said.

Stenberg and the Union Gospel Mission are ready to take in people that need a place to sleep for the night, whether the temperature outside is 80 degrees or eight.

On sub-zero nights like Thursday night, extra attention is paid to those that are the most vulnerable.

"Those that need the extra help, like the women and children. They're much harder, there are so many more parts of their lives," Stenberg said.

The number of people who take advantage of the warm bed fluctuates from night to night, but the ones that do stop by are always happy that the door remains open.

"They have an appreciative heart. Sometimes it doesn't look like it, but they do. Even some will come up and just say 'Thanks for all that you do,'" Stenberg said.

For the next few weeks, Union Gospel will be one of the few shelters open for people to stay overnight, but Stenberg says that should be looked at in a positive way.

"It's a matter of if you make it too convenient, then there's no incentive to do something with themselves. We're pretty tough on that. I know it's cold, but you go out and you do what you need to do," Stenberg said.

Walking through their door this winter could be the difference between a very warm night and a very cold night, and the people at Union Gospel want to make sure people are safe more than anything else.

"What we see is a danger of them being out there, and so we kind of keep an eye on everybody and see what's going on with them and try to encourage them to get in and so forth," Stenberg said.

Encouragement and some bitter help from Mother Nature could be enough to get more people safely indoors.

The Union Gospel Mission will be the main shelter open for overnight stays until December 15, when the Salvation Army is opening up their yearly warming shelter.

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