A pedestrian bundles up and crosses the street while it's snowing on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Oak Park, Ill. (ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer)

As the deluge of arctic conditions and extremely low temperatures continues in Cook County, Oak Park’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, located at Randolph Street and East Avenue, is providing emergency overnight shelter.

Housing Forward, the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition and Good Shepherd organized the emergency shelter, which will run through this week and likely through the weekend, depending on need and weather. Due to COVID-19, the maximum capacity in the emergency shelter is restricted to 12 people. 

“We are looking for volunteers for the emergency overnight shelter,” said John Harris, of the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition, “But we really want to get the word out to the community so people know there is a safe place to go this week.”

Rush Oak Park Hospital and West Suburban Medical Center are also operating warming centers, with respective capacities of 12 and six people. 

Those fortunate to have permanent shelter of their own should note that space heaters, candles and winter storms contribute to an increased risk of home fires, which occur more often in winter than any other season, according to the Oak Park Fire Department.

The fire department advises people to keep anything flammable at least three feet away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators and space heaters.

Along with home fires, winter also presents an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fire department recommends keeping safe by installing carbon monoxide alarms and testing the alarms once a month.

Other home fire prevention tips include blowing out lit candles when leaving the room or going to bed, as well as plugging only one heat-producing appliance into an electrical outlet at a time. 

To keep pipes from freezing, Oak Park Public Works Director John Wielebnicki recommends letting water trickle out of faucets, particularly those near or on outside walls.

Wielebnicki directs Oak Parkers experiencing water problems to call public works at (708) 358-5700 before contacting a plumber. 

Refuse collection will continue in Oak Park regardless of the temperature.

“Residents and building owners are reminded to clear snow away from refuse and recycling containers to avoid a missed collection,” said Wielebnicki. “If the container is not accessible, it will not be emptied.” 

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