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Madison shelters near capacity as bitter cold hits

Published On: Dec 30 2013 12:32:04 AM CST   Updated On: Dec 31 2013 12:48:29 PM CST

On a night where the wind chills in Madison were expected to drop to -25 degrees, newly homeless Brian Currie found himself on line at the men's drop-in shelter at Grace Episcopal Church.

He wasn't alone: Waiting with him was about 170 other homeless men.

"Trying to stay as warm as you can, and it's hard to do," Currie said.

Currie lost his home just days ago, and while he’s waiting to have a new permanent roof over his head, he had no choice but to turn to shelters to keep him out of the cold.

Cane in hand, Currie and the others lined up for the drop-in shelter. The cold makes it harder for Currie to walk, but he knew the alternative would be staying outside for the night.

"This is actually the coldest day that we've had, but it's supposed to be like this for the next four or five days," Currie said. "So it's going to be rough, but I think we'll all make it."

Steve Schooler helps run the drop-in shelter and said the facility has 180 mattresses in all, but using all of them means putting the shelter at full capacity.

Schooler said on winter nights with sub-zero temperatures, the shelter won’t turn anyone away who needs a place to stay, even if that person has been banned from the shelter in the past.

"Frankly, on nights like tonight, we just make room. We just make room," Schooler said.

Schooler said there have been efforts to make more space for people. He said those who run the drop-in shelter have tried to find space for an emergency shelter, which would be used as needed when there is not enough room in the church’s basement for everyone looking for a place to stay.

"There aren't enough resources for the shelter itself. There aren't enough resources for housing for folks that need that housing and need those services," Schooler said. "Sorry, there are just not."

Currie said he’s thankful for a warm place to lay his head for the night, and while he thinks his situation will be short-term, he hopes for the best for all of those in Madison without a home and out in the cold.

"I think they'll all be inside. Hopefully they are," Currie said.

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