FOX47 NEWS - Surviving the Cold

Jeff Angileri
Jan 14, 2009, 10:46 PM

This is the coldest stretch of weather we've seen in a decade - or more. For those without a place to call home -- it's a story of survival.

Shelters in Madison are filled to capacity as dozens of homeless people look for places to get out of the cold.

And there isn't room for everyone.

The Matlock family of Madison is grateful to have a warm place to sleep tonight.

If it wasn't for the Salvation Army, I woudn't have a place to stay at all, said Roberta Matlock, who has two young children. We'd be living out of our car.

They're not alone. As the city braces for the coldest weather of the season, organizations like the Salvation Army are bracing for an influx of homeless people looking to get out of the cold.

The family shelter is full, the women's shelter is running at capacity, said Sarah Gillmore, service coordinator with the Salvation Army.

So, many people -- not enough room. Across town, at the Road Home, case managers say 25 families are already on the waiting list, and they're averaging three calls per day from concerned parents with no place for their children to go.

I had a family in last week just telling me how they had to wake up every 20 minutes to keep the heat on in their car so that they wouldn't freeze to death, said Kristin Rucinski, shelter case manager with the Road Home.

Workers at both the Road Home and Salvation Army say they've never seen this kind of demand before.

Family and friends are more likely to take people in when it's so cold, said Rucinsk. Landlords are less likely to evict. But this week, and this winter we've definitely seen an increase of people needing shelter.

A salvation army spokesperson said this is first time in at least seven years they've actually had to turn people away at the emergency warming shelters.

A reminder for those who use local food pantries -- cold weather often forces pantries to shut their doors. You can check the latest closings, by calling 211 -- that's the United Way hotline.

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