Denver opens three 24-hour warming centers as city faces arctic cold

The Denver Coliseum, The Downtown Denver YMCA and The Wellington Webb Building are now all serving at 42-hour warming centers. Denver rec center and libraries will also be open Thursday and Friday for Denverites seeking shelter during normal business hours.
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A snowy day over City Park West. Nov. 17, 2022.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Update: A wind-chill warning will go into effect Wednesday, starting at 8 p.m., until Dec. 23 at 11 a.m. The Denver Coliseum is currently open for Denverites seeking shelter. They have space for about 225 people and anyone is welcomed. 

The city is also using the Downtown Denver YMCA facility as a 24-hour warming center. The Downtown facility at 25 E. 16th Ave. will house up to 100 people from Thursday morning, starting at 7 a.m. through noon on Dec. 24. Transportation will also be available to the YMCA from the St. Francis Center at 2323 Curtis Street and the Lawrence Street Community Center. Both are in Five Points. 

The city has also made The Wellington Webb Building, at 201 W. Colfax Ave., available as a 24-hour warming center for up to 100 people. Chairs and blankets will be available, but not cots. Guests will be required to pass through an electronic security screening system before entering.

People with pets that are not Registered Service Animals should go to the Coliseum. The pets wills be sheltered at the nearby Colorado State University Spur Center.

An arctic cold front will drop temperatures and bring bitter wind chills to Denver starting Wednesday evening.

In response, the city is planning to use the Denver Coliseum as a 24-hour warming shelter. The facility, located at at 4600 Humboldt St. in Elyria-Swansea, will open at 3 p.m. The city is providing transportation to the Coliseum starting Wednesday afternoon. Buses will make rotations from the Lawrence St. Community Center at 2222 Lawrence St. in Five Points to the Coliseum. Folks can also just walk up to the site or be dropped off.

The city says only registered Service Animals will be allowed in the Coliseum. If pets aren't registered, Denver Animal Protection will transport the furry friends to temporary housing at a Denver Animal Shelter.

It's unclear how many beds will be available but city officials are expected to provide more details Wednesday.

Denverites seeking shelter during the day on Thursday and Friday may also go to Denver Recreation Centers and libraries during operating hours.

Temperatures are expected to plummet Wednesday night.

The low will be about -12 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Tack on 10 to 17 mph winds with gusts as high as 28 mph and a 90% chance of snow and the temperature will feel like -27 degrees. Thursday will be sunny, but temperatures will barely get to 0 degrees.

Temps will drop again Thursday night. Friday is expected to see similar numbers below 20 degrees.

"Extreme temperatures are dangerous, especially combined with other health conditions, and can lead to a higher risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and carbon monoxide poisoning," a city press release states. "The City and County encourages everyone to seek shelter and limit time out of doors beginning on Wednesday evening."

The City of Denver opened a 300-bed women's auxiliary shelter on Monday, April 20, 2020, with plans to run it in the same way as a similar men's shelter at the National Western Complex. Anyone seeking shelter there will be screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering. Once inside they'll have access to cots, portable showers, medical triage and other amenities.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News/Pool

Besides seeking shelter, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment says preparation is key.

Prepare for power outages with non-perishable food and supplies including medication and extra batteries.

If you lose heat, seek an emergency shelter. Heating your home with a gas stovetop or oven is not recommended.

An emergency kit for your car that includes jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, non-perishable snacks and a full tank of gas will also come in handy.

A man assesses his car, which is stuck on the side of I-70, on March 14, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

If you must be outside, layer up with warm clothing and look out for symptoms of frostbite or hypothermia.

Skin turns white or a grayish if you have frostbite, according to a tip sheet from Denver Health. An affected area can be treated by soaking it in warm water for 30 to 45 minutes. Don't massage or use a heating pad.

Symptoms of hypothermia include low body temperature, shivering, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Warming the center of the body first and then moving outward toward the appendages is recommended.

The Department of Housing Stability will be conducting outreach to unhoused Denverites, according to a city statement. Additional shelter information can be found at

The Denver Coliseum was used as a 24-hour shelter for women and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness earlier in the pandemic. The facility switched over to being a 300-bed men's shelter in August 2020.

While the city deals with the cold weather, it is also still working with hundreds of migrants from the southern U.S. border. As of Tuesday, 470 people were at the city's shelters, and 192 were at partner shelters, according to a statement from the city. The city is using three recreation centers (two for shelter and one as a welcome center), churches and a motel to house about 500 people.

Last week, Mayor Michael Hancock declared an emergency in the city and county in response to the influx of migrant arrivals. Hancock said Denver has spent more than $800,000 responding to migrant needs since Dec. 6, which is putting a strain on the city's resources to "the verge of reaching a breaking point." The emergency declaration gives Hancock more spending leeway. City Council voted Monday night to extend the emergency declaration.

This story has been updated with Coliseum opening time, transportation details and information on Service Animals. The number of migrants within city shelters has also been updated. This story has also been corrected to note the Coliseum switched to a men's shelter in August 2020, not April. 

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