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January 04, 2018 10:00 PM

Relief From The Cold

Rapid City, SD

For most of us when the temperatures get cold, we go inside. However for some people, that isn't an option. A few places in Rapid City serve as a place for the community's homeless population to stay warm. There are even extra patrols.  

Living in KELOLAND, there's no doubt it's going to get cold from time to time.   When temperatures drop, the 'cold patrol' steps into action, looking for people who may be at risk.

"We'll check on those people and check those spots when we can to make sure no one is there and if there is we will try to get them to a safe place where they can be warm," RCPD patrol sergeant Tim Doyle said.

Patrol sergeant Tim Doyle says the spots where the homeless like to go include anywhere from downtown to even under bridges.

"Just in our routine patrols when we're driving the bike path, we can check underneath these bridges, especially when we know we have a really bad, cold night coming, we can check and make sure there's not people under there," Doyle said.

Officers then offer a ride to a safe place.

"Sometimes that's detox, whether it's we take them there and they're committed there for 24 hours or there's a safe bed program where they can just be there for a couple hours and if they don't want to be there they can get up and leave," Doyle said.

Other times it can be as simple as giving them a ride to the home of a relative or a place like The Hope Center.

"We provide the day center where during the day where people can come and warm up if they need to, stay out of the weather during the day, but then we also offer as much of the warm winter items as we're able so coats, hats, gloves, scarves, snow pants, boots," Anna Quinn, Executive Director at The Hope Center said.

Quinn says the homeless population ranges from anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 and that includes adults and children.

"People who are living in hotels, who are doubled up living with other families in a home, people in cars, people in shelters, people on the streets, so a pretty big number potentially," Quinn said. 

Every day of the year, The Hope Center sees anywhere from 160 to 200 people.

"We really don't see a huge difference because unfortunately people are homeless in the summer and winter, and so our numbers stay pretty consistent," Quinn said.

While Gerald Black Elk recently found a home to live in, The Hope Center still provides him a place to seek relief from the cold. 

"This place also provides sort of a wind break, a place for us to go so we don't have to stand on the streets or under a shelter," Gerald Black Elk said.

Leaving officers and shelters doing their best to help those in unsafe situations, whatever the circumstance may be.

"The importance of places like the hope center or the mission are really to keep people safe, provide support," Quinn said.

"If you're out in that, you're probably not going to survive it, they might have enough blankets there to be able to survive a night but that sure can't be much fun so they're going to be a lot better off inside some place," Doyle said.

Doyle suggests that if people want to help people who are struggling, to donate to local nonprofits.

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