MADISON, WI (Spectrum News 1) -- As snow and temperatures fell outside First United Methodist church in Madison, singing rang out inside.
Children took turns singing into a microphone while they played inside the church.
“Oh man it's a blessing to these babies,” said OD McCoy, a father experiencing homelessness staying in the church for the day. “This place here you know kids get a chance to explore and run around and get a little exercise.”
The church has opened up for an emergency warming center because of the extreme cold. Both to get people out of the cold and give people more space than they get at homeless shelters that are over capacity because they won't turn anyone away in these temperatures.
“They try to do the best that they can, but it's so small over there, so you don't really have enough leg room,” McCoy said.
While temperatures are so low this week a shuttle is taking several families from shelters to the emergency daytime warming center at First United.
The church will be open all week and works with the shelters to keep people out of the cold all day.
“This was a heartfelt coming together with the common sense logic of people could die,” said Karen Andro, director of Hopes Homes Ministries and a man organizer for the shelter.
Homeless families can come and get food or something to drink, relax and for the kids play. Andro said people have been really appreciative of the space.
“Usually I'm experiencing tears of pain, but today i've experienced some tears of joy,” Andro said. “The joy was I mean really really basic items of dignity and safety and compassion that really can make and break a person's level of hope at a time of great need.”
The church took about 75 people on Monday. They run the warming center largely off of volunteer work. Volunteers say it's impactful to themselves to help out.
“You might not notice how many young families are out there who might not have a warm place to be, so I think it's important that we help meet their needs in the community,” said Brenda Coupar, a nurse practitioner and volunteer with the center.
People staying in the warming center say they like the church a lot and were thankful for the help.
“I think it was really nice for them to open this church up for us because of the weather,” said Ronetta Sterling, a mother experiencing homelessness staying in the center Monday. “If you're out there, just come to this church because it's a loving environment and it's great to be in a nice place like this out of the cold.”
Anyone who wants to help is asked to email email@example.com call 608-338-0329 to ask about what they need.
The Salvation Army reports that more than 150 people stayed in its shelter Monday night.