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Memphis implements cold-weather strategy

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The city of Memphis is responding to the polar vortex threat by implementing a cold-weather strategy aimed at assisting the downtown homeless and establishing "warming centers" in two of the city's community centers.

Though it may not reach the lowest temp on record Memphis of -13 below on Christmas Eve 1963, the next two nights figure to be ones to remember if you have to brave the elements. But, if you want help getting off the cold streets the city is willing to extend more than a helping hand.

MORE: Memphis shelters in overflow mode during cold weather
MORE: Winter Weather Resource Guide

It's one of human nature's most perplexing mysteries. Why is that some people, even in their greatest time of need, find it harder to ask for help, than to take advantage of assistance when it is wholeheartedly offered?

"Where are they? Where's the special need population? Where are they?," asked Fire Services Director Alvin Benson, who is the point man for city hall in coordinating and making available transportation and facilities for those who could be considered the most suspectable during a brutal cold wave that has most of the country in an icy grip.

Director Benson and members of his staff conducted a joint strategy meeting Monday morning with an outreach team staffed by the Community Alliance for the Homeless. In conjunction with Memphis Police, the top priority was to canvass and identify downtown homeless and provide support.

"On days like today we've really worried about the  unsheltered population," said Katie Kitchen, Community Alliance for the Homeless. "So, that tends to be about 200-300 maximum. Maybe they think they know everything that's out there, when new resources have been made available. Especially, for this weather situation and just remind them of what the risks are related to exposure."

"Normal body temperature is 98.6," added Lt. Jim Logan, Memphis Fire Chief of EMS. "I've seen people that have been picked up in extreme cold like this. When you measure the body temperature and they're very lethargic, very confused. Their body temperatures are 85 degrees, 87 degrees."

So coordinated and determined are the efforts of the city and various non-profit agencies to protect the citizenry from the extreme weather, within a matter of minutes, Benson was able to get another community "warming center" established at Douglas Community Center in North Memphis and the cooperation of MATA to supply free shuttle service to get there.

That's in addition to the center already operating inside the gym at the Orange Mound Community Center as of Sunday night.

"We do have water and snacks available," said Joseph Lee, Memphis City Neighborhoods and Parks. "In fact, we also have some clothing items that have been donated by some of the local non-profits. So, anybody coming in, they need a coat, additional sweaters. These are available for them to keep."

"Did you know the Orange Mound Community Center's open? Did you know that Douglas is open?," Director Benson said. "Union Mission is down the street. Can we help you get there? That's what's we're going to be doing tonight and tomorrow night too, probably."

To get immediate help to get out of the frigid temperatures you can contact the city of Memphis assistance by calling 3-1-1 or 2-1-1, Memphis Fire non-emergency phone line at 901-452-8281, or the Community Alliance for the Homeless at 901-527-1302.

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