Warming Center closes for season, homeless look elsewhere for shelter

The La Crosse Warming Center is closed for the season.

That means 15 homeless people no longer have a place to stay every night.

So what happens to those people now?

The coordinator of the La Crosse Warming Center, Mary Fitzpatrick says they’ve had an extremely busy year.

For a stretch in March, they were actually having to turn people away because they simply didn’t have enough space.

Now the center is closed, which means people in need will have to find a new place to stay.


“We just closed Monday morning April 1 at 7 a.m. The last of the guests left that morning,” said Fitzpatrick. “With the Warming Center, the door for the guests and the volunteers being on West Avenue, and as busy as that is there are a lot of people who before were not even aware that we had homeless people. It’s really helped as far as the awareness.”

While the steps of the La Crosse Warming Center are empty, it doesn’t mean the homeless are gone. Now they’ll have to find new places to live until the center reopens in November.

“Some have gone to live with family. Some have friends that they’re able to stay with. Some have cars and are sleeping in their cars. We handed out sleeping bags the last night so people could take those with them. We are working with some of the couples and some of the individuals at Catholic Charities to make sure there is a plan in place for them long term,” said Fitzpatrick.

City officials say the homeless will also turn to heated parking ramp stairwells, overpasses and areas of the marsh for shelter.

Salvation Army staff says they have room but unfortunately many of the people the Warming Center accepts, the Salvation Army won’t.

“The Salvation Army will only accept people who pass a breathalyzer test or are not using drugs. It’s a safety concern for us,” said Julie Nelson with the Salvation Army.

It means some in the homeless community will have to make due without a roof over their head for another seven months until the Warming Center reopens.

Fitzpatrick says they may look to extend how late in the year the center is open next year.

That way people will have a place to stay if the cold weather sticks around as long as it has this year.

The Warming Center is open every night from November to April 1.

Fitzpatrick says it takes more than 40 volunteers a week to keep the center running.