What you can do to help the homeless in extremely cold temperatures

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The recent stretch of snow and cold is taking a toll on some of the vulnerable homeless population in our community.

We find out what residents can do to help those facing the elements.

As the bitter cold lingers and the snow keeps piling on, it has created many dangerous situations for the homeless population.

A local pastor says if you see someone struggling, pick up the phone and call 911.

“Every winter in Northern Illinois is a hard winter for the homeless population,” said SecondFirst Church Pastor Rebecca White Newgren.

This stretch of cold and snow has been especially grueling for some.

“We don’t always have a cold snap like this, so it is particularly difficult. You really can’t get in, out, you can’t hide from elements like this,” Pastor White Newgren said.

Pastor White Newgren says it’s important to know what to do if you see a homeless person struggling in this dangerously cold weather.

“We don’t want anyone to die in the cold and people have died in these Rockford winters out in the streets trying to make it,” she said. “If you really see someone struggling and they look like they’re dozing off or not really conscious call 911.”

She says that first responders are equipped to help.

“The Police Department [and] the Fire Department have all been so helpful in this crisis and they really are the ones who know where the resources are and you could be saving a life,” Pastor Newgren added.

Spaces are limited in shelters due to COVID-19 restrictions. So White Newgren says it’s important to keep an eye out.

“There are less spaces in shelters, but the City of Rockford has been absolutely tremendous in offering as many people places to stay as they absolutely can, anyone who qualifies,” she said.

With that help, there have been improvements.

“There really are fewer people who are homeless this winter than I’ve ever seen,” she said.

The church’s Overnight Café, located at 318 North Church Street, is open.

“That’s why we’ve opened up the Rockford Overnight Cafe at the SecondFirst Church to be able to welcome in anybody who maybe thought they were going to try to stay outside and now realizes that just isn’t going to work.”

Community Action of Winnebago & Boone Counties asks that you save a life by calling the “homeless hotline” at 844-710-6919 ext. 5.

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