(CNS) -- The brutally cold weather covering the eastern two-thirds of the
country at the start of 2018 kept Catholic agencies scurrying to find ways to make
sure no one was left without warm shelter and hot meals.
Montana to Florida and Texas to Maine, homeless shelters opened additional
hours and home checks were commonplace as gusty winds carried teeth-chattering Arctic
literally cuts through ya," Michael Acaldo, executive director of the Council of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told Catholic News Service
plunged into the 20s in southeastern Louisiana, forcing dozens more people to
show up at the three emergency shelters the council operates, Acaldo said. During
the cold snap, about 120 men, women and children have been at the shelters. A
normal night would see 80 people, he said.
Down the road
in New Orleans, the city's freeze plan allows shelters to expand capacity for
several nights until the cold weather subsides.
One of those
shelters is the Ozanam Inn,
a partner of Catholic Charities of New Orleans. Clarence Adams, executive director, said the shelter
has welcomed 30 extra people nightly since the New Year in addition to the 96
on a typical night.
concern facing people is frozen pipes and improperly heated homes.
making the best of it. Everybody's trying to stay warm," he said.
north in the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, staff members at Jericho Way, a homeless day
resource center operated by the Catholic nonprofit Depaul USA, have seen an increase in clients at
Director Mandy Davis said doors have
opened earlier and stayed open later to give people a place to stay out of the
cold. Churches and temporary warming shelters have opened for people needing a
place to stay as well, she said.
In the Diocese
of Joliet, Illinois, the shelters have been filled for much of December as cold
weather settled in early, said Pam
Terrell, division director of community services for the diocese's Catholic Charities
CNS the agency has established cold shelter nights, allowing more than the
usual 80 people to seek warmth during any given evening.
of our shelters serve as warming centers during inclement weather,"
Terrell said. "And both have 24-hour call numbers for those who may be
searching for cold shelter. So we go over census and take anybody in."
As some of the
coldest temperatures in the country have descended on Minnesota, Tim Marx, president and CEO of
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said his agency and others
in the Twin Cities have been well prepared for whatever Old Man Winter throws
Minnesota, I think we are more accustomed to dealing with cold weather in our
emergency services system. Our emergency services system is pretty robust and
it's done in public-private partnership with everybody playing different
roles" to ensure that as few people as possible are not sheltered, he told
are exceeding capacity at our shelters, we also facilitate people being
relocated to a winter safe space" in a county-owned building, Mark said.
Ohio, volunteers with the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul council have
seen as many as 400 people show up at the two shelters it operates. Normal winter
capacity is 300, said Adam Wik,
marketing director for the council.
than anything, we just want to make sure we're there," he said.
East Coast, communities were dealing with a fast-moving storm centered just off
the coast Jan. 4. In Baltimore, hundreds of people turned to the Our Daily Bread Employment Center
Hot Meal Program, part of the archdiocese's Catholic Charities system.
has served between 500 and 900 people daily for 37 years and the lines
continued to be long despite the single-digit temperatures. About 560 people
were served Jan. 2.
drive (high turnout), as well as their (guests') money," said Penny Lewis,
director of Our Daily Bread.
agency leaders said that they partner with others in their communities to
assure that high heating bills will not force people to lose utility service
when warmer weather returns in the spring.
parish conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul have traditionally
helped provide funds for utility payments to avoid shutoffs and many already
have begun collecting additional funds in anticipation of higher-than-normal
bills for low-income and elderly households.