With the summer heat in full effect, the last thing on most people's minds is cold weather.
But frigid winter nights were the chief concern at a meeting of church and community members Thursday morning as they worked on plans to establish an overflow shelter from November to March for Wichita's homeless population.
Now in its third year, the Warming Souls Winter Overflow Shelter sets up a rotating shelter at area churches for the homeless to get out of the cold and into a bed. It serves people who can't get into other shelters and have no other place to go.
The program is overseen by the faith-based group Advocates to End Chronic Homelessness, and the shelters are run by Inter-Faith Ministries.
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Funding comes entirely from private donations from individuals and dozens of church congregations and faith organizations, said June Huie, fundraising co-chair for AECH.
Thursday's meeting, held at First United Methodist Church, 330 N. Broadway, was a kickoff for the planning and fundraising needed to keep the shelters operating through the winter. About $61,000 is needed to run the shelters, and so far $10,000 has been raised, said Janis Cox, co-chair of AECH.
The group had about $20,000 at this time last year, much of it left over from the previous year's budget, Cox said.
Last year, 475 men and women spent a combined 11,853 nights in the shelters. The shelters are open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. seven nights a week and provide those who stay there a cot to sleep on as well as dinner and breakfast.
Area churches house the shelter, with one hosting for a month before the shelter moves to a different location.
It costs about $5 for food and shelter per person per night, and Huie called the program "exceptionally efficient."
A variety of other services, including medical check-ups and legal aid, are also offered periodically.
"We want to offer more than just a bed," Huie said.
The Warming Souls shelter was organized as part of recommendations by the Task Force to End Chronic Homelessness, which in 2008 released a proposal with a number of initiatives targeted at helping the homeless.
One proposals called for providing more overflow shelters, and Warming Souls has filled that gap for three years. Now, the task force is working to come up with a more permanent plan for an overflow shelter.
Homeless people can be reluctant to seek assistance, Huie said, but the cold weather often drives them to shelters.
"For the most part, the people who find their way to us are those who have no other choice," she said.
Once homeless people come into the shelter, staff members work to build relationships with them to make them feel comfortable. After a level of trust is established, people come back more frequently and begin to get help to "break the cycle of homelessness" and work toward getting permanent housing, Huie said.