ROCHESTER, Minn. – Earlier this week, the Rochester Salvation Army opened the Warming Center. It was the first time the center has needed to open in December. With temperatures expected to dip to dangerous levels again this weekend, it will be open Saturday and Sunday evenings (18th and 19th).
When the Warming Center is needed, anyone who does not have a place to stay is welcome to escape the cold from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. at the Salvation Army Community Center (20 First Ave NE). They will have cots, blankets and pillows, and usually a warm meal and beverage.
This is the third winter the Warming Center has been available, and as Social Services Director Cindy Norgard explains, it was meant to be a temporary solution when area homeless shelters were full.
“We started in response to some people being left out in the cold and losing toes and fingers one winter and we decided that we just can’t let that happen. So a group of us got together with our local agencies and we tried to find some solution for a least the most extreme nights.”
Since the center is run by volunteers it only opens during a cold weather advisory with wind chill temperatures around 20-25 below. Norgard says the community is in desperate need for a permanent solution.
“I don’t think this is a Dorothy Day problem, or a Salvation Army issue, I think this is a community issue,” she adds. “I think the community has to come together and find a permanent solution, a permanent place to have this [with] staffing and more consistency, where we can be open when it’s cold because people should really not be left out in this kind of weather.”