Shelter operators, homeless search for places out of cold

Below-zero temperatures are forcing homeless people, even those who usually choose to stay outside, to search for safety.

Shelter directors say they usually coordinate to find places to sleep for people who need them. But that effort becomes more intense when the weather turns bitterly cold.

"We just hate to see anybody attempting to sleep in a car or attempting to sleep in a place where they're just not going to get out of the cold, at least not in a way that will keep them safe," said Fargo area shelter director Jan Eliassen in an interview on MPR News' All Things Considered Friday.

Eliassen directs the Gladys Ray Shelter, which serves 35 men and women on a typical night -- more in the winter months.

Neil Minter stays there. He says the shelter is crowded after the doors open at 6:30 p.m.

"I mean every seat in the house is taken, everybody is shoulder to shoulder and you get cabin fever being around that many people packed in like sardines," he said.

Minter, a veteran, said a difficult part about being homeless at this time of year is the need to keep moving to find a warm place, such as in a library or coffeehouse.

He's noticed more people trying to obtain homeless services who seem to have come for oil patch jobs, and have not found work.

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