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Iowa homeless shelters activate weather amnesty ahead of frigid temperatures

The policy means that no one can be turned away from a shelter while amnesty is in effect.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With the weather getting colder and colder, it's a challenging time of year for central Iowans without homes. In response, Iowa homeless shelters are enacting their weather amnesty policies to make sure that can keep as many people as possible out of the cold. 

What that means is that anyone seeking shelter from the cold can't be turned away while weather amnesty is in effect.

When the wind chill is projected to hit 10 degrees or below, amnesty kicks in for 48 hours before and after the bad weather. Shelters in the area are preparing additional services to deal with a surge in people seeking help.

"We allow people in the community--whether you're timed out, or are out for another reason--you can come back to shelter. We're not going to have any barriers. We're not going to turn anybody away," said Alex Wright, a food ambassador with Central Iowa Shelter & Services.

It's not just Central Iowa Shelters, either; Hope Ministries is offering amnesty services, as well.

"We, along with many other organizations want to collaborate with each other, and with the city to provide as much relief as possible, and safe help for people and extreme weather," said Kathy Coady, Director of Development & Community Relations for Hope Ministries.

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That extreme weather isn't just limited to the winter, either. It might come as a surprise, but the cold isn't the only time that shelters see more demand for services. The same can happen when the temperature starts to climb.

"We do extreme weather very extreme cold or very extreme heat. Either one of those might bring some additional people to our doors. [...] Sleeping outside and being out in the elements and not having a safe place to sleep is a problem year-round," Coady said.

So, how do shelters spread the word about amnesty services? It's not as simple as you might think. While the word does go out online and over social media, much of the work is done the old-fashioned way.

"We also have a street outreach team now go out to local campsites and you know, try to get people to come into the shelter. And if someone is worried about losing their tent, or sleeping bag or other belongings, we do have a storage container for them to put their thing their belongings in," Wright said.

Both Hope Ministries and CISS told Local 5 said that they're in need of winter gear donations. Coats, pants, hats, gloves—whatever can help beat the cold. You can donate to Hope Ministries here and CISS here.

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