Rule changes for area homeless shelters heading into near record - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Rule changes for area homeless shelters heading into near record chills

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Frigid temperatures are heading into the Louisville area this weekend -- and for the people who need shelter the most -- the homeless -- there are new rules for getting out of the cold.

James Fredrick didn't bring a jacket to our interview -- a telling sign of the life he got used to living on the streets for years.

"Plenty of blankets, under viaducts someplace out of the rain and snow," he reminisced. "I got to where I could barely walk a block -- and that's when I knew I better do something."

Fredrick still remembers his final nights outside. He says he was drunk in a bitter cold snap last winter.

"It got below freezing and I lost my toes to frostbite...I got three left," he said.

His story is in the back of many minds as Louisville shelters brace for near record lows this weekend. It's forecasted to feel like negative-15 by Saturday night and the needle is not expected to rise above freezing for most of next week.

And those temperatures can be fatal.

White flags come out at shelters when temperatures are too extreme to stay on the street. It's a sign for the homeless that they can come into the shelter, whether there's a room or not. This weekend, new rules take effect for the white flag.

People needing shelter will have to register with the coalition for the homeless and be assigned a place to go for the night.

"Now we have to really look at what is capacity, and starting Sunday, we will be making reservations for the white flag spaces," said , Mary Frances Schaffer, of the Coalition for the Homeless. "We try to accommodate folks anyway we can."

Experts say Louisville lost 30 homeless lives last year -- not all due to extreme weather, but enough to heed medical warnings for everyone: wear layers and protect exposed skin.

"You can lose a lot of heat through your head, through your fingers and your toes," said U of L Physicians cardiologist Lorrel Brown.

James Fredrick is grateful for a new life.

"It's great," he said. "I can cook now, got TV, got radio, got electricity."
And he's trying never to go back again.

"I got 13 months sober now," he said.

Schaffer said the new white flag registration rules have been in the works for weeks. Rules will probably be relaxed Sunday due to the implementation falling on the coldest weekend of the year thus far. She said no one in need will be turned away. Louisville white flag shelters include Wayside Christian Mission, St. Vincent DePaul, and the Salvation Army.




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