ELYRIA – With a consistent -12 degrees outside, Officer Palmer with the Elyria Police Department hit city streets checking for anyone homeless still outside.
“Anyone home,” he said looking into a tent found near a shopping plaza. A good thing, no one was inside. Hopefully that person is in a warm place but checking known areas where homeless people are known to stay is one of the things Elyria Police were out doing Monday night.
If he found anyone outside, Officer Palmer said they would be taken inside to the winter shelter set up at St. Mary’s hall near 4th Street and Middle Ave. It’s the only operating emergency winter shelter in the city of Elyria and one of a handful in Lorain Co.
“Of all nights, this is one of those nights where we really need to take care of each other. These are deadly temperatures,” said Elyria’s Mayor Holly Brinda. Brinda told NewsChannel 5 they may be making history in the city since this is the first city-sponsored winter shelter she can remember the Elyria ever operating.
“Our number one priority certainly is to get out. We’re using our public safety forces. Our police and fire and private ambulance company, LifeCare Ambulance here are actively looking for people who are in the homeless community,” said the city’s Assistant Safety Service Director, Bruce Shade.
But it’s not just the homeless population city officials are concerned for. They’re also trying to reach those who may need help but plan on waiting the dangerously-cold temperatures out.
“There’s people that are sitting watching TV tonight, they have no heat, they have no furnace, nothing and they’re freezing. Why not come here and get warm? Nobody cares why you’re here everybody’s here for the same reason, to stay warm,” said Johni Wressell, who works with the homeless and just stopped by the shelter to drop off gloves and other items before hitting Lorain to check on other people in need.
Not concerned for her own safety braving this cold she said, “It has to be done.”
Everyone is working together and there is food and warm place to sleep at the shelter for anyone who needs it. The Red Cross donated about 50 cots and the winter shelter facility is said to hold more than 500 people.
Shade said they’re playing to keep the shelter running for as long as these life-threatening conditions persist, which he said will most likely be into Wednesday morning.