Hazleton homeless shelter bracing for frigid temps

Hazleton homeless shelter bracing for frigid temps

HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- On a day as chilling as this, most stick to the warmth of the indoors.

But for some - it may not be that simple.

"We'd love to allow people to stay as long as they need, but we can't in order to serve all those that need to be housed," said Marijo Penkala, Shelter Director for Catholic Social Services.

Penkala runs Divine Providence homeless shelter in Hazleton. They're open during the coldest hours - from seven at night til eight in the morning. But after eight, residents are on their own.

"On these days where it's frigid, it's very difficult for our residents because you can't just find a place to just stay and be warm. You can't sit on a park bench," Penkala said.

She adds that, in the Hazleton area, there aren't many places they can go.

"They can stay at the library for a short period of time, or they can go over to CareerLink, which we encourage, or they go to the store. Some, if they have bus fare, they'll go up to the mall -just to be out of the elements," said Penkala.

She says she sees a spike in homelessness around the holidays, and as the temps drop, a desperate need for socks, shoes and gloves - especially waterproof.

"We learned that the first three months of the shelter when one of our residents... it became apparent that his toes had become frozen and gone gangrene and had to be removed," Penkala said.

Debbie Clark, RN directs the Trauma Program at Geisinger in Scranton and says that anyone can be at risk of frostbite or hypothermia if you're not adequately covered up, especially your nose, ears, fingertips and toes.

"As your body gets cooler, your blood circulation tends to go towards your body organs - stomach, heart, internal organs - so you get less circulation to those areas that are farthest away from your body, which makes them more at risk for getting cold," she said.

According to Clark, frostbite symptoms include tingling and numbness, and if not covered up, may turn numb and require medical attention.

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