COVID-19 closes homeless warming shelter, straining the already taxed system

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As we face sub-freezing temperatures in Milwaukee, those who are homeless will have even more trouble finding a warm place to go. 

The spike in COVID-19 cases has a local warming center closing.

According to Milwaukee Health department officials, Sunday is the last night that people will be able to go stay the night at Street Angels.  

"This time of year we have people who died in their car or were found frozen to death outside, and it's usually those who are homeless. So this is a very vulnerable and scary time," said Reverend James West, Executive director at Repairers of the Breach, one warming shelter that is still operating.

He said the loss of Street Angels will put more of a strain on other shelters. 

"We share the responsibility, so that's one of the places that if I'm over capacity that I can call and we can transfer some people there," said Rev. West.

West said Repairers of the Breach has cut down from being able to help 50 people at once to just 14 because of COVID-19.

Health department officials said COVID-19 has put a major strain on the system.

"It's just highlighting the need for more space for keeping people safe out of the cold at this point," said Nick Tomaro of the Milwaukee Health Department.

Tomaro said they're doing what they can, like contracting with local hotels and working with other local shelters to continue to help keep people safe from the cold and COVID-19.  

Rev. West said that helps them move people who need longer term help elsewhere so they can focus on short term help.

"We kind of look at the people who need this shelter as a constant," said Rev. West.

If there's someone struggling with finding a place to stay, health department officials said you can call 211 to get them help.

If you're interested in helping Repairers of the Breach, you can go to their website by clicking here.

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