The state activated its severe weather protocol as temperatures dropped toward a low of three degrees in parts of Connecticut Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
In response, the city of Hartford has opened up an overnight warming center.
That gave Randolph Torres a place to stay. He said his alternative might’ve been sleeping outside -- in a park on Main Street.
“It’s horrifying,” he said. “It’s not good. I don’t wish that on nobody.”
Torres, who’s experiencing homelessness, said he’s had to sleep outside in the cold before.
“I would say you probably would have to wear at least three or four socks when it gets real, real cold,” Torres said. “Me personally: I don’t like the cold.”
Torres will spend the night at Hartford’s Willie Ware Community Center and so will Andrew Carrington.
“This warming center and places like this – they’re very valuable to communities and people,” said Carrington, a Vernon native. “This is how people get their lives in order.”
Carrington said that the coldest weather he’s ever experienced without a place to stay was nine degrees. He said he felt “despair” – that it was a lonely place to be.
“We need more places like this,” Carrington said. “For right now, I really appreciate this place because I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
A Willie Ware worker said that she’s expecting 75 people to come into the warming center.
The McKinney Men’s Shelter on Huyshope Avenue can sleep 91 people when at capacity.
Jose Vega, who’s the program manager of the shelter as an employee of the Community Renewal Team, said that in the winter, the shelter will see that number on a nightly basis.
The protocol means warming centers can open, which is a big help when the shelter is overcrowded and Vega has to find beds for clients who need it.
“Usually when it’s very, very cold, the shelter gets pretty full,” Vega said. “Sometimes we have additional people, so we have to get extra chairs or make some extra space in the shelter to accommodate anyone comes from the street.”
Vega said his shelter won’t send people back into the cold – he’d either call up a warming center to see if there’s space there or he’d give the person a chair inside his shelter for the night.
When Governor Ned Lamont activated the severe weather protocol earlier this week, he encouraged those in dire need of a place to stay to call 2-1-1 for help.
“We need to spread the word to the most vulnerable in our communities that the conditions will become too dangerous to spend extended periods of time outdoors – shelters are available throughout the state,” Lamont said.
The protocol remains active until noon on Sunday, February 3.