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D.C. Shelter Offers Round-The-Clock Refuge During Hypothermia Alert

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D.C. shelters are preparing for additional people as temperatures drop into the low thirties this week.
www.flickr.com/Ed Yourdon
D.C. shelters are preparing for additional people as temperatures drop into the low thirties this week.

By Mana Rabiee

With overnight temperatures expected to remain in the low thirties this week, homeless service providers near Union Station in D.C. are working into the night to help bring people in from the cold.

At the Federal City Shelter in Northwest D.C, the staff try to locate a volunteer van service that gathers the homeless around Union Station into nearby shelters for the night.

"What time is the hypothermia van coming through here?"

D.C. law requires shelters to offer space to anyone seeking refuge during a hypothermia alert -- that's when temperatures drop to thirty-two degrees or lower.

Federal City remains open round-the-clock during an alert. But many other shelters open their doors only at night and require residents to vacate the next morning.

An elderly man who didn't want to give his name enters the Federal City holding room for hypothermia walk-ins. He says he had to leave his previous shelter because temperatures weren't cold enough to stay open.

"But it wasn't below 32, it was above 32, so they had no choice," he says.

So if it's 33 or 34 degrees outside, "you're out in the street. You deal with it."

A Federal City spokesman says private shelters run by churches and other non-profits are more likely to open their doors only at night.

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