Carla Madison Rec Center will close early to become an emergency homeless shelter. Warming centers have also been activated

If you’re looking for shelter, don’t go to the rec center first.
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Shiny new basketball courts. The Carla Madison Central Denver Rec Center is now open, Jan. 8, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) carla madison rec center; parks and rec; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty; recreation;

Denver has made the rare decision to turn the Carla Madison Recreation Center into an overnight shelter for both Thursday and Friday nights. All rec centers have also been activated as warming centers during regular business hours.

To make room for the shelter, Carla Madison will be closed to gym users from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. both nights.

This conversion to a shelter is being carried out by the Department of Housing Stability.

Anybody can go inside and warm up, sit down, use the restroom and take a drink from a water fountain -- activities already permitted during extreme weather. Only, when these spaces are activated as warming centers, the city sends out messages about it.

People getting in from the cold don't have free access to all rec center amenities. The idea is they have a place to take care of their most basic needs.

The move to activate these cold weather spaces comes as snow and freezing temps creep across the city and a day after Denver City Council members grilled various city agencies about how they decide to open emergency shelters.

If you need shelter, don't show up to the rec center hoping to get inside.

Instead, the city wants people to go to its "Front Door Shelters," places where people looking for housing can go before being transported through the city.

Here's the list of Front Door Shelters:

For individual men: Lawrence Street Community Center

For individual women: Samaritan House

For families with minor children: Samaritan House, the Gathering Place or Volunteers of America Mission

For youth 15 to 20: Urban Peak

For those experiencing domestic violence: Safehouse Denver, 24-hour crisis hotline

Service animals are allowed in shelters, and other pets can be taken to the Denver Animal Protection's Safe Haven Program.

For more information about finding shelter, visit the Department of Housing Stability's shelter website:

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