By Makenzie O'Keefe


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A local organization is teaming up with other agencies to provide emergency, overnight shelters to people living on the streets during winter months. Severe Weather Shelter Network hosts nine shelters across Jefferson County, but is in desperate need of volunteers to make sure they can help men and women escape the cold.

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTER NETWORK JEFFERSON COUNTY

(credit: CBS)

“You worry about frostbite, about getting too wet early on in the night,” explained David Mitske, who uses the emergency homeless shelter. “Not really having a consistent place to be out of the elements is pretty rough.”

Severe Weather Shelter Network says last year, they helped nearly 800 people get off the streets in Jefferson County when night temperatures dropped below freezing. The shelters open up at different churches when the nightly forecast is 32 degrees and lower in wet conditions, or 20 degrees and lower in dry conditions.

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTER NETWORK JEFFERSON COUNTY

(credit: CBS)

“It keeps you alive,” Mitske said. “I used it around 30 times or so last year.”

LynnAnn Huizingh is the executive director of SWSN. She tells CBS4 their shelters are extremely important because they’re the only assistance available to homeless in the area.

“Jefferson County and west Arapahoe County have no shelter for human beings,” Huizingh explained. “Anyone who is living on the streets right now has nowhere to go when temperatures are life threatening.”

Huizingh said this year, they are in desperate need of volunteers. Each of the nine shelters that are part of their network require a team of on-call volunteers every night of the week during the winter months.

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTER NETWORK JEFFERSON COUNTY

(credit: CBS)

The shelters are in need of drivers who can take people from warming locations across town to the shelters to sleep.

“You take a church van and just drive them to the shelters,” Huizingh explained. “It’s great and easy for someone who is retired and just wants to help.”

Another area they need help with is overnight volunteers. This position helps to check in guests, put their belongings away, eat dinner, and then sleep in a room with the guests to make sure they are safe and secure.

SEVERE WEATHER SHELTER NETWORK JEFFERSON COUNTY

(credit: CBS)

“Our primary task is to make them feel welcome,” Huizingh said. “The overnight role means you’re talking to and being with our guests for three hours, and then you get to sleep until breakfast and help clean up early in the morning.”

It’s a way to make sure those struggling in the Denver metro area have a warm place to go when a storm hits. Mitske says the volunteers are what make the shelter warm.

“Not just physically but emotionally,” he said. “You feel like somebody cares and that matters.”

SWSN will be hosting a volunteer training on Oct. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Applewood Community Church. They are in need of nearly 50 volunteers this year.

Makenzie O'Keefe

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