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Denver Will Open Coliseum As 24-Hour Warming Center on Wednesday


With a potential wind chill of 50 below zero headed toward the Mile High City this week, the City of Denver just announced plans to open a 24-hour warming center at the Denver Coliseum on Wednesday, December 21.

The center, located at 4600 Humboldt Street, will be available for “anyone who needs a warm place to stay during the storm,” according to the Denver Joint Information Center, which has been handling communications for the city regarding sheltering since city officials set up an emergency shelter for migrants earlier this month.

“I’m glad to hear this. We’ve been greatly concerned that [the city] was not going to open up warming centers as needed,” says Terese Howard, an organizer with Housekeys Action Network Denver. The City of Denver will also open all Denver recreation centers and libraries as warming centers during regular operating hours on Thursday, December 22, and Friday, December 23.

The National Weather Service sent out a wind-chill warning on December 19 for large swaths of Colorado, including Denver, stating that the wind chills from Wednesday evening through Friday morning could dip as low as -50 degrees.

“The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes,” the National Weather Service states, adding that people should “avoid outside activities if possible” and “wear appropriate clothing, a hat, and gloves” when outside.

“The City and County encourages everyone to seek shelter and limit time out of doors beginning on Wednesday evening,” the Joint Information Center states.

The center says that it will provide more information on Tuesday, December 20, regarding the opening of the Denver Coliseum. But Howard already knows what she wants the city to do when it comes to the Coliseum.

“There’s a few things that are super important for that to actually be effective. One, that people be allowed to walk straight up to the Coliseum and not have to go through the [Denver Rescue Mission] in order to get there. The city continues to insist that people need to go through the Mission and get transported to the warming centers, and we just want to be really clear that that is not a good method for a bunch of reasons, including for folks who will not go to the Mission because of past experiences and being barred,” Howard says, adding that there also should be ongoing transportation from downtown Denver, where shelters and services are located, to the Coliseum.

A Joint Information Center update indicates that transport and walk-up access are “still being negotiated with providers and across shelter partners,” adding that more details will be released on Tuesday, December 20.

Howard also implored the City of Denver to stop encampment sweeps during this cold front, noting that sweeps will often happen when people go inside, like the city has instructed them to do.

The center’s update addresses this issue, as well, stating: “We will be watching the weather carefully and adjust as needed. All cleanup activities on Thursday have been delayed. Depending on conditions, trash pick-up may resume on Friday but individuals experiencing homelessness will not be asked to move by cleanup crews. All teams involved will be notifying individuals in these encampments of the incoming cold and offering to connect them to shelter.” The statement also notes that service providers will be sent out to encampments specifically to encourage people to seek shelter.

Advocates and medical professionals have been pushing city officials in recent weeks to revise a newly adopted policy that calls for the opening of warming areas at recreation centers if there’s a weather advisory showing a forecast of below 10 degrees or the potential for six or more inches of snow in Denver. After receiving criticism that the threshold was too low, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment announced that it would be revising the policy. However, the agency has not yet released new standards.

The decision to open the Coliseum as a warming center comes as the City of Denver struggles to serve the large numbers of migrants, many of whom are from Venezuela and other countries south of the U.S. border, who have recently arrived in Denver from border states. Since December 9, the City of Denver has served 1,146 migrants. And 408 migrants are staying in the two emergency shelters set up at Denver recreation centers, while 153 are staying at church and nonprofit shelters.

According to the Joint Information Center, skin suffering from frostbite can be treated by soaking it in warm water or using body heat to warm the affected area. Massaging the area or warming with a heat pad should not be done.

And when it comes to hypothermia, the best way to treat it initially is for someone to warm the center of the body first and then keep a person dry and wrapped in warm blankets, including around the head and neck. After that, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Sources: West Word