Warming center braces for bitter cold weather

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW)-- "I'm usually here early enough so I ain’t gonna be stuck,” said Wayne Ruechel, who was waiting outside the Catholic Charities Wausau Warming Center Sunday night.

Director Tracy Rieger makes coffee and hot cocoa for people waiting outside the warming center (WSAW Photo).

With temperatures turning from cold to just plain bitter this week...

"We try to look out for each other," he said.

The center is open from November 1 to April 30th for guests to check in from 7 to 9 p.m., eat dinner, do laundry, take showers, and sleep. People who rely on the center are making sure they get a spot for the night this week.

"We have been at capacity now for at least a good week," said Tracy Rieger, the director of community homeless facilities.

For people who rely on the center once it opens in the fall, Ruechel says, they are the lucky ones.

"There's people still living under the bridges yet. I really appreciate this place," he said, explaining that he spent the summer sleeping in one of the town’s parking ramps after being evicted from his home last year.

The center can accommodate 25 people, but when it gets extremely cold, they can bring in an additional five people. If the center fills to over 30 guests, they'll help people get a spot at the Salvation Army or refer them to Wausau Police for help getting into a hotel. If there are no options left after that, they are not turned away.

"They may have to grab a spot at the kitchen table and lay their head for the night, but I couldn't sleep at night knowing they were back outside in the cold," Rieger said.

This week, they'll be needing lots of hand and foot warmers and gloves. They are also looking for volunteers to cook a meal for one of the days they are open for the holidays. Rieger said they currently need someone to cook for Christmas Eve day.

"It's really great that I can come here," said Ruechel.

Donations can be dropped off at 540 South 3rd Street in Wausau. For more information about volunteering, you can call the warming center at (715)-849-3311.