As intense cold weather in the Midwest nears record low temperatures, local Catholic Charities affiliates are reaching out to those who are most in need.

“Chicago is experiencing extremely dangerous and cold weather. We are anticipating some of the coldest weather on record,” Kristine Kappel, communications director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA Jan. 6.

“In weather like this our top priority is ensuring that everyone who needs a warm place to stay has someplace to go,” she said.

The National Weather Service said Jan. 5 that temperatures in Chicago could fall to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill ranging from minus 30 to minus 50.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago has added more staff to its outreach program, which does well-being checks, delivers emergency food boxes and helps those in need find temporary shelter or a warming center.

Kappel said the Chicago agency has 227 shelter beds for men, women and families and is now at full capacity. Its mobile outreach program works with shelters around to city to ensure that all needs for shelter are met.

The agency works “very closely” with the City of Chicago and other social service agencies and shelters.

The National Weather Service has warned that wind chill readings so cold to be “life-threatening” will be widespread across Wisconsin.

Justine Lodl, director of communications for the Diocese of Green Bay, said everyone is vulnerable in such weather conditions. “Catholic Charities is helping with any housing related emergencies by assisting in getting persons connected to resources within the communities we serve,” she told CNA.

The Green Bay Catholic Charities affiliate has a temporary wintertime shelter with 84 beds. The gym at St. Norbert College or several churches can help host any overflow.

Minnesota is also suffering from the extreme weather. “It’s cold. This is probably the coldest it’s been in quite a while,” said Julia Jenson, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “With the wind chill, it makes it so much colder.”

Jenson said the agency has four to five shelters, including one for families and another for homeless youth. The shelters have a total capacity of about 1,000.

“Basically we’re just trying to keep people safe and off the streets and provide help where we can,” Jenson told CNA Jan. 6.

The agency has opened its shelters for a longer period. Its care coordinators and case managers are also checking on the vulnerable elderly to see if they have heat or need help for applying for heat assistance. The agency is also making food deliveries through programs like Meals on Wheels.

“We have a lot of these clients who are living at the poverty level,” she said. “We want to check in on them, especially the elderly folks to make sure that they are staying warm and keeping their apartments at the appropriate temperature.”

---Catholic News Agency