By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman residents will likely wake up to another inch or two of snow this morning. Temperatures are expected to reach no higher than 16 degrees today.
Wind chill in the morning could be as low as 9 degrees below zero, warming to zero around noon, according to Michael Scotten, National Weather Service Senior forecaster.
“When it’s very cold outside with very low wind chills, it’s important to prevent hypothermia by dressing warmly, wearing a heavy coat, hat and gloves,” Scotten said.
Temperatures will remain cold through the weekend, Scotten said, with another chance of snow on Friday. Highs in the 30s are expected for Saturday and Sunday, with lows in the teens.
Those extreme cold temperatures are particularly tough on Norman’s homeless population.
“Last night was crippling,” Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier said Wednesday. “We used every inch of our building to squeeze in as many people in as possible, and, unfortunately, it’s just not enough space to get everyone off the street.”
Doshier said between 90 and 100 people live on Norman streets. Food and Shelter can only provide shelter for about 40 people — leaving as many as 40 or 50 people who might not have shelter.
“The only alternative we have is to give people as much winter weather gear as possible to try to keep the wind off of their skin,” Doshier said. “We’ve been operating pretty much 24 hours a day during the winter so people can get in from the cold, at least for a few hours.”
Doshier said warm drinks and coffee are needed at the local shelter, as is warm weather gear.
“We could definitely use good, thick blankets and sleeping bags to help people who can’t get into a shelter,” she said. “I just really know and believe in my heart that Norman is better than this, so that next winter we’re not saying, ‘We’re sorry, you didn’t get here in time and now we don’t have bed space for you.’”
The Salvation Army also has a dozen or so beds, and many homeless will seek shelter with friends and relatives. As freezing temperatures continue, however, those friendships can wear thin, sending more people to seek comfort at a group shelter.
Vince Andros has been homeless for about three years. Initially, he stayed with friends and family, but a few months ago, he came to Food and Shelter.
He said the shelter has resources that are helping him get back on his feet to seek employment and find permanent housing.
Meanwhile, Andros works as a shelter monitor from 5 to 8 each evening. During winter months, Food and Shelter stays open all day, but some residents go to the library or other public places for a change of pace.
The shelter serves breakfast and lunch. Dinner isn’t always available, but during winter weather, people can at least come in, get a cup of coffee and stay warm.
Around 8 p.m. Andros said they begin pulling mats and bedding out of storage to provide a buffer between the homeless and the hard floor. Food and Shelter provides overnight shelter during the winter months only as an emergency measure.
Food and Shelter also has a few apartments that provide temporary housing for families with children. With East Main Place closed, Andros is afraid there will be families and children who aren’t served.
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