BELOIT (WIFR) -- Volunteers from around Beloit pitch in to set up an overnight warming center for Rock County.
With temperatures expected to dip into the negative digits Sunday night and stay there for a few days, many communities are opening up warming centers to help the homeless get out of the cold. In Beloit, there's only one warming center open overnight, and this is the first time in more than a decade there's been any kind of warming center in Beloit.
The Rock County Emergency Management team needed a big site, so they reached out to the pastor at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church to use the church’s basement. The congregation agreed, and dozens of volunteers pitched in to turn an old nursery into a warming site. It’s open from 7pm to 8am. The Red Cross donated 15 cots and 30 blankets. Volunteers from St. John’s, Messiah Lutheran Church, and from around Beloit have supplied the center with snacks, fruit, coffee, blankets, coats, socks, and other warm clothes. The site offers dinner and breakfast. Pastor Jonah Burakowski estimates this is the first time in 15 years that Rock County has needed an overnight warming center and it’s been appreciated by the folks who need it.
“They were saying as they were walking out, it's people like this that make it a lot easier,” Burakowski recalls overhearing from two men using the shelter. “It’s been an absolute joy in our part, it isn’t about the appreciation for us, it’s about hearing them snore comfortably instead of shivering, it’s a pretty big difference,” he adds.
The plan is to operate as overnight site until the 9th, and maybe beyond that depending on the weather. The church began doing this on and off in early December. As many as 10 people used it in one night; some stop in for a few hours and leave, others stay all night. Volunteers expect to see more faces once this cold sets in.
There are two warming sites open during the day from 8am to 7pm. All three locations have created a shuttle service between them so people don't have to trek through the cold once one closes.
The Overflowing Cup
310 State Street, Beloit WI
The Sparrows Nest
1816 Harrison Ave., Beloit WI
After 5:00 pm only
St. John’s Lutheran Church
1000 Bluff Street, Beloit WI
To get involved visit St. John’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stjohnsbeloit