Operation Street Reach helps many battle the bitter cold

Published: Jan. 1, 2018 at 4:37 PM CST
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The bitter cold temperature can turn deadly within minutes.

It’s why volunteers and staff from the Topeka Rescue mission walked outside for hours Monday.

A team of four faced the cold for the second time in 24 hours New Year’s Day.

"You almost feel kind of drawn, you feel drawn by the spirit to go do these things,” Scott Smith with the Topeka Rescue Mission said.

Smith and others were with Operation Street Reach.

They were searching to locate and help those who didn’t have a place to keep warm.

"We have oatmeal. We have hot water. We have coffee. We have water. We have socks and blankets, and sleeping bags, and backpacks, and just a number of different things that people need. Hand warmers are big one,” Barry Feaker with the Mission said.

"It is desperately cold, and if people aren't prepared they will freeze out there in these temperatures,” Mark Degroff, who is also with the Mission, said.

They walked along river banks, and stopped under bridges.

Places such as those are where some homeless people set up campsites.

"We do our absolute best to treat them as we would a guest in our own home, and to serve them great food and love on them, and give them everything we can to care for them,” Mark Degroff explained.

A campsite is where they found Luther, who was trying his best to keep warm.

"It was nice to actually have someone help me once in a while, so it's really fantastic,” he said.

Volunteers tried to do more than just hand out a few items.

Although not always successful, they hope to convince those without shelter to go to the Rescue Mission.

"You have to not judge them and reach them where they're at, and hope that even if you have to reach them 20 times that eventually they'll come to you,” volunteer Anje Kearney said.

Volunteers said their visits form friendships, which is why they will keep coming back.

"When they can bring you joy, yeah God! You know, that's amazing,” Kearney said.

20 people were located Monday morning, but not many of them chose to leave their campsite.

If you see someone who may need help, you can call the Rescue Mission and leave a tip, and someone will address the situation as quickly as possible.