With winter on its way and expected to be nasty this year
, the Community Service Office
at Washington University held an open meeting this week to discuss the need for volunteers for this year's Winter Outreach (WO) team to assist St. Louis' homeless community.
In its first season of operation last winter, WO helped run three shelters. This year it plans to operate three more, one of which will again be housed at the AmeriCorps St. Louis
headquarters in Soulard. That shelter, the biggest, has room for 30 people and is open every Saturday and Sunday and alternating Fridays, and every night temperatures drop below 21 degrees.
The other five shelters, which work in cooperation with the WO, can house 15-20 people and are open other nights of the week, so that at least two emergency shelters are open every night. Last winter, one shelter was open all day for two weeks due to extreme weather.
Emergency shelters like those operated by the WO are open to all, whereas city shelters require pre-registration, St. Louis residency and an ID. With those requirements, many homeless people are denied access to shelters.
The WO is looking for volunteers to transport homeless people from the street to a shelter, or to pass out blankets to those who do not want to go to a shelter. They also need volunteers to work at the shelters on nights of extreme cold. You can get involved here.